Dr. Tommy John III is on a mission. The son of baseball star Tommy John, the man most known and remembered for the surgical procedure that bears his name, Dr. John believes that there is
a “sports injury epidemic” affecting our youth in this country.
In his new book, “Minimize Injury, Maximize Performance: A Sports Parent’s Survival Guide,” he spells out a number of comprehensive, step-by-step strategies that he believes serve as a first step in dealing with and reversing this phenomenon. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. John about his mission and his book and our interview is below.
John Michael Antonio (JMA): What was your main inspiration for writing this book?
Dr. Tommy John (TJ): Having worked in the performance and healing field for over 17 years, I started to see a growing trend: All sports had injury epidemics and it was mostly affecting our youth. There have been many best sellers that have alerted us to the science and stats around these sports epidemics, but it left all parents saying “Now what?” Finally, here’s the what…the solution.
JMA: What motivated you to make it so comprehensive in its scope?
TJ: Being the son of a baseball legend who is also linked to a famous surgery bearing his name, there are a lot of parents who will think this book isn’t for them because their son or daughter doesn’t play baseball. That’s the amazing nature of the way this book has been created…it is for all ages, genders, and sports. It is for all human athletes.
And, what I’m hoping is some of the parents and grandparents put these principles into play and maybe find that they can release some hidden potential lying inside of them, as well regarding their health. Because as I said….all sports are being affected and plagued by injury epidemics.
JMA: Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz has stated that “I played 21 years of professional ball, yet I would never have accomplished that achievement with the way youth sports lacks concern for athletes today.” What do you think he means by that?
TJ: John was very vocal about the problems going on in baseball at the highest and lowest levels, even in his Hall Of Fame speech he mentioned how he will probably be the last inductee who has had Tommy John surgery because of the business of youth sports.
John knows that kids’ arms are being abused early on by travel teams, and early specialization. And he knows if he was a kid now, he would have had more of an opportunity to fall victim to what is going on and no way would he have lasted as long as he did. His foundation would’ve been poorly built because of how youth sports are handled.
JMA: In October, your father will be writing an article for AARP magazine in which he will aim to inform the grandparents of young athletes about a lot of the dangers to young athletes that you discuss in the book. What does it mean to you to have your father working with you to spread your message?
TJ: It is very special for us both to team up again and take on such an important topic and hopefully make a change in the American sporting culture. I know we are both sick and tired of having our names attached to a surgery that is happening in kids more than adults, being that 57% of all Tommy John surgeries are being done on 15-19-year olds. Now maybe our names can be attached to a solution.
JMA: In the book, one of the three main reasons you give for the “injury epidemic” affecting youth sports today is the business of youth sports itself. What do you mean by that and the hard-hitting assertion that when it comes to youth sports, “It’s often less about the kids—and more about the cash”?
TJ: Youth sports is a 15 billion dollar a year industry. It’s because the business of youth sports has made a year-long training schedule the new norm.
Behind the scenes—and in most cases, right in front of our very eyes—our children are being put through a gauntlet of coaches, camps, and countless lessons unnecessarily. What was once meant to be played for a season is now pushed 24/7, 365 days a year. All courtesy of new “select teams” that extend a child’s time playing the game, coaches and parents who believe “more is better” when it comes to practice, as well as indoor facilities and elite showcases that encourage kids to train during the off-season and even year-round.
Today, there is no off-season for our youth athletes. Because if their uniform ever found its way back into their closet, the money would stop rolling in.
This situation is developing young athletes in desperate need of medical intervention at younger and younger ages when inflammation, surgery, and rehabilitation shouldn’t even be words in their vocabulary. These surgical and rehabilitation procedures go beyond jumper’s knee, baseball elbow, or any of the common aches and pains active kids sometimes experience. It’s about significant damage to ligaments, tendons, and joints that require serious care—injuries from which many never come back.
Even worse, at a critical phase of developmental growth, when children should be naturally developing balance, coordination, agility, and spatial awareness (among other important functional skills), they are being forced instead to overtrain and perform specialized movements that are creating muscular imbalances and deficiencies within their body. Because the human body is so adaptive, many kids can keep up and persist for a period of time. The problem is, their body eventually can’t maintain the pace and demands it is being put under.
It’s why the bodies of many of today’s young athletes aren’t keeping up—they’re giving up.
JMA: What do you hope happens after the release of your book?
TJ: I hope every sports parent in America looks to the book as a way to equip themselves and their entire families with an arsenal of tools to help raise healthy, happy, and high functioning people. Then I hope the non-sports parents catch wind that this isn’t a book about sports, rather a book about life. And how to release the unlimited potential we all have lying inside of us.
One of the greatest questions we can ask is why. And maybe my book will have people start to ask that to the youth sporting world suffering from injuries to limbs and minds. There is no reason a child should have to rehab from their childhood, and if my book saves one kid from that it was well worth it.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
Are you a first-time contributor to The Good Men Project? Submit here:
Have you contributed before and have a Submittable account? Use our Quick Submit link here:
Do you have previously published work that you would like to syndicate on The Good Men Project? Click here:
Got Writer’s Block?
We are a participatory media company. Join us.
Participate with the rest of the world, with the things your write and the things you say, and help co-create the world you want to live in.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project, please join us as a Premium Member, today.
All Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS.
A $50 annual membership gives you an all-access pass. You can be a part of every call, group, class, and community.
A $25 annual membership gives you access to one class, one Social Interest group, and our online communities.
A $12 annual membership gives you access to our Friday calls with the publisher, our online community.
Register New Account
Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: Getty Images