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New York Met's Lose Prospect After a Single Outing

Zachary Walston

When Thomas Szapucki imagined the start of his MLB career, allowing six runs in a single relief appearance never appeared in the highlight reel. He isn't the first rookie to be roughed up during a debut outing. Unfortunately, he won't receive the opportunity to right the ship in 2021. The New York Mets announced Szapucki is done for the season due to ulnar nerve transposition surgery.

What is ulnar nerve transposition surgery?

The ulnar nerve is one of the main nerves in your arm. It runs along the inside portion of your arm and supplies sensation to the pinky and half of the ring finger - yes half. Don't believe me? Pay attention to the exact location of numbness and tingling the next time you hit your 'funny bone.' The 'funny bone' is the ulnar nerve. The image below shows what nerves supply sensation to the arm and hand.
By Henry Vandyke Carter - Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body

Along with sensation, the ulnar nerve is responsible for supplying muscle control to several muscles in the outside of the hand. As you can imagine, any irritation to this nerve would negatively impact someone who throws a baseball for a living.

Hitting your 'funny bone' is uncomfortable and annoying. Imagine if that sensation persisted or was initiated randomly. If the ulnar nerve is repeatedly compressed, that will happen. It is uncommon, but fractures, severe inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis, or tissue changes from wear and tear can lead to sustained compression. The latter is likely the case for Szapucki.

Throwing thousands of high-effort pitches a year creates adaptations in the arm. Some of the adaptations are beneficial, such as the thickening of ligaments and bone, while others can be detrimental, such as tearing or the development of bone spurs. When the New York medical staff evaluated Szapucki, they determined the ulnar nerve was compromised in its current location. Likely, the bone or ligaments surrounding the ulnar nerve thickened to a degree that limited the space the ulnar nerve sits within the elbow, causing repeated compression at rest and during throwing.

The ulnar nerve transposition surgery moves the ulnar nerve to a location in which it won't be aggravated regularly.

The good news is this surgery does not have the same arduous timeline as the other elbow surgery, Tommy John surgery. The bad news is New York will lose its 10th rated prospect for the rest of the season and a potential World Series run.

The typical recovery for this procedure is 3-6 months. With catchers and pitchers reporting to spring training in mid-February, Szapucki should be able to join the team should the New York Mets decide to extend a spring invite to him. There aren't many players who undergo this procedure, making it difficult to know the long-term impact. This surgery could push the team to use him as a reliever rather than a starter though.

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I am a physical therapist, researcher, and educator whose mission is to challenge health misinformation. You will find articles about health, fitness, medical care, psychology, and professional development on my site. As the husband of a real estate agent, you will also find real estate and housing tips.

Atlanta, GA

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