Frank Jobe

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 13 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g2774
  1. Ned Stafford, Hamburg

Developed elbow reconstruction surgery to save careers of baseball players

Frank Jobe, team doctor for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball club, was watching his team play in July 1974 when something strange happened. The Dodger’s star pitcher, Tommy John, threw the baseball toward the batter standing at the home plate, but the throw was weak. John would later say that as he threw he “felt a kind of nothingness,” as if his arm were not there. And then he heard a pop from inside his arm.

John was pulled from the game and was diagnosed with a ruptured ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the medial elbow. This was not an uncommon injury for a pitcher, but it could not be treated and meant the end of his career.

Jobe, though, was not ready to declare the retirement of John, who at 31 years of age was one of the top left handed pitchers in the game. Jobe, an orthopaedic surgeon, analysed the injury and devised a plan.

In the past he had used palmaris longus tendon from the forearm to repair muscle …

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