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March 13, 2014

Groundbreaking surgeon Frank Jobe fondly remembered

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“He kept asking me if this doesn’t work do you have some other way to make a living,” said John, who said that he told Jobe that he did.

John elected to have the surgery. He said that two days later, his daughter was born. 

John sat out the 1975 season rehabbing his arm, before returning in 1976. He then proceeded to pitch for 13 more years, never missing a start and retiring at age 46. During this time he won 164 games, and had three 20 win seasons, which he never had before the surgery. John, however, gives some of the credit for his 20 win seasons for playing on better teams.

Today, Tommy John surgery has become common place, with such pitchers as Brian Wilson of the Los Angeles Dodger, David Welles of the New York Yankees and John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves all having undergone it and continued on with successful careers

“It’s one of the more successful procedures in Sports Medicine,” said Wittstein, who performs the procedure at Bassett Medical Center, along with her husband, Dr. Tally Lassiter.

She said that 90 percent plus of people who undergo the surgery return to throwing the ball at their full potential, saying that the majority of athletes successfully resume their careers.

In addition to baseball players, she said that wrestlers also have benefited from the surgery, although their injuries are normally caused by trauma, not overuse.

Both Wittstein and John said, however, that it was a myth that getting the surgery makes you throw harder. John said that any improvement post surgery comes from the healing of the injury and the rehabilitation.

“Tommy John’s surgery only corrects a flaw,” said John.

In 2013, the National Baseball Hall of Fame honored Dr. Jobe for his contributions to the game of baseball.

“He just had this big grin on his face,” said John, who introduced Jobe before he was honored.

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