There’s an ongoing epidemic across all levels of baseball.

Pitchers are more frequently in need of labrum surgery or, the most prominent of all, Tommy John surgery.

Mason’s baseball team has unfortunately had to deal with such injuries during pitching coach Steve Hay’s three-year tenure.

“One has been the fluke, one-pitch incident where it just happened late in the season. We have had some others where some pitchers have come into the program tired or hurt which may have caused the injury,” Hay said. “Most of the time there is a deficiency in the muscles in the shoulder or an issue with posture which we are currently doing a study on.”

Tommy John surgery is also known as ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction. The procedure got it’s name from former Dodgers pitcher Tommy John who was the first to undergo the operation in 1974.

When the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow tears and a tendon from another place in the body is used to replace the damaged ligament.

The usual timetable for a return from Tommy John surgery for a player is anywhere from 12 to 18 months.

In recent times there seems to be a high rate of pitchers returning successfully from Tommy John surgery, the most successful case being John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves, who won the National League Rolaids Relief Man of the Year in 2001, the year following his Tommy John surgery.

The blame for such injuries occurring across all levels of baseball is being put on coaches and managers, who are accused of overworking and overusing their pitchers.

Still, the fact remains that a pitcher motion is unnatural and puts a great degree of stress on the elbow.

Coaches are being accused of overworking and overusing their pitchers. It is not uncommon among major NCAA baseball programs to use their ace pitchers deep into starts, sometimes accruing 120 to 130 pitches.

A case recently came up in the past year’s MLB 2011 First-Year Player Draft in which Trevor Bauer, the 2011 Golden Spikes winner, was averaging 125 pitches per outing for UCLA.

Although Bauer has yet to run into any significant arm troubles, ESPN analyst Keith Law wrote of a 129-pitch outing by Bauer in March 2011, “…that’s an irresponsibly high pitch count for a 21-year-old, and no, no one will bother to question the coach who left Bauer out there to do it.”

Hay has a different philosophy than Law’s when he explained how he manages Mason’s staff workload.

“Pitch counts to an extent are being overanalyzed in baseball lately,” Hay said. “While there should be limits at the little league and high school levels, the college pitcher has fully matured and all pitchers are different. Some pitchers’ limit is 80 while another is 120.”

“It is our belief that it is more difficult and taxing to throw 80 pitches through four innings, than 115 though 8,” Hay said. “The more base runners in scoring position against the pitcher, the tougher the toll it is mentally and physically.”

“You would love to think that winning one game doesn’t cloud your judgment, but we try and do what’s in the best interest of the pitcher,” Hay said.

Although no one can give a definitive answer to why some pitchers must go under the knife for the various arm injuries, Hay believes Mason is being proactive in researching the root of the problem.

“We are currently doing a study using the Mason Research Department and training staff, trying to find out if there is a way to see the potential for injuries before they occur,” Hay said.

“If we can see the warning signs before the injury, then that is where I think we can separate ourselves from other programs.”

Hay’s philosophy for Mason is simple.

“We truly believe we are doing everything in our power to keep our pitchers healthy, and no one game is worth the risk or injury to a potentially professional player.”