Analyzing Parker’s chances of a good Tommy John outcome

I spent some time talking with an orthopedic surgeon and came out of feeling a little less confident about the chances of a full recovery for Jarrod Parker when he undergoes Tommy John surgery next week.

At first it seemed to me that the chances for Parker to come back as good as new after what would be his second Tommy John surgery were a little more than 50-50.

But after my conversation with the surgeon, who has worked on pro, college and recreational athletes for years and who asked not to be named, it seems that maybe the chances are a little less than 50-50.

The surgery, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, has been pushed up to Monday and will be performed in Pensacola, Fla. by Dr. James Andrews. He will harvest an arm or leg ligament and use it to rebuild Parker’s right elbow and forearm. Recovery from the surgery generally takes a year, although it can take longer to get all the way back.. When Parker had it done the first time in 2009, he missed the entire 2010 season.

The problem the second time around, the surgeon explained, is that the first procedure already needed holes drilled in the ulna and humerus bones of the elbow to accommodate what is essentially a new tendon.

“Generally you have to fill the first set of holes,’’ the surgeon said. “Then you have to make new tunnels. The second drilling means they aren’t likely to be as stable.’’

The harvested ligament being used to replace the ulnar collateral ligament is generally tied in in the form of a figure-8 and must be anchored in place, although the surgeon said there are new procedures that don’t use the figure-8.

The best news for Parker is that Andrews is doing the job.

“Andrews is a good guy and a good surgeon,’’ the surgeon said. “He would never do one of these unless it was absolutely necessary. It’s just a matter of fact that the second time around, these operations are not statistically as successful as the first.’’

The surgeon said that Tommy John surgeries are successful overall 80- to 85-percent of the time the first time but said when talking about the second time, that number may drop in half.

It should be pointed out that some orthopedists put the second-time-around number at closer to 55 percent as the procedure has been improved upon and that Parker is young (25) and disciplined enough to follow strict rehab protocols.

“The numbers are one thing,’’ the surgeon said. “The fact is that every case is different. You don’t know.’’

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.