A surgery called Tommy John has become commonplace among big league pitchers. But the elbow reconstruction surgery, made famous in 1974 when it saved the MLB career of its namesake, has become most common among teenage athletes.
Joey Mansky, an 18-year-old Hudson High School baseball player, is one of them. A pitcher turned catcher, Joey underwent the surgery at Akron Children’s Hospital last spring, after learning the ongoing pain in his right elbow was caused by a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, known as the UCL.
Pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Drew Engles used a tendon from Joey’s wrist to reconstruct his UCL, a band of tissue inside the elbow that binds the upper and lower arm bones.
— Joey Mansky (@manskyjoey) May 6, 2019
Joey sat out the baseball season last spring, and he will miss the 2020 season his senior year. It’s a tough break for a young person who has played the game since age 5.
For the time being, he is focused on rehabilitating his elbow in the physical therapy program at Akron Children’s Boston Heights Health Center.
“I don’t want to push myself throwing-wise,” he said. “Right now, I’m rehabbing, and I don’t have the stress of getting back at a certain time.”
Joey is religious about following his therapy program at home. His eagerness makes him an ideal candidate for rehabilitation, said Physical Therapist David Gabriel.
“He’s gung-ho. He even bought a body blade to help with shoulder and elbow stabilization. I’ve never had a kid do that,” David said.
— Joey Mansky (@manskyjoey) August 7, 2019
13 weeks after surgery, Joey hit a baseball again
Joey said he loves and misses the game. His freshman year, he switched from pitching and third base to catching. He took to the position quickly and liked being the field general.
“I think about baseball every single minute of the day,” he said. “Give me one more at bat, one more pitch to throw, one more groundball.”
He remembers just about every game he’s played in.
“Not being able to play ball was a killer for him,” said Joey’s mother, Terry. But he found an outlet for his passion last spring, when he became an assistant coach for a travel team of 12 year olds.
The day after his 4-hour surgery, he showed up at their game with his right arm in a cast and sling. Boys ran up to him, happy to see him. That felt good.
“From an emotional standpoint, it was exactly what he needed,” Terry said. “To go from playing ball to mentoring these younger kids, it was a lovely thing to see.”
Joey isn’t certain if he will play baseball after high school. He may have found a new path in the sport.
“I like coaching,” he said. “I want to see where it takes me.”