on Twitter @TedSillanpa

My 17-year-old son pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two, in his official return to the mound 11 months after he underwent elbow reconstruction surgery. He’s one of those elite-level prospects who was being recruited by some Pac-12 Conference baseball coaches even while he was rehabilitating his elbow over the winter. So, to say he’s back at 100 percent of what folks believe he can be would be untrue. Just to see him on the mound, getting hitters out and enjoying competition is a tribute to modern surgical procedures.

Sports parenting note: A dad’s view of the game changes when just knowing his son is pain free for the first time in years.

NFL star Adrian Peterson returned from potential career-ending knee surgery in nine months to have a record-setting season. NBA star Derrick Rose might return to action less than a year after he had knee surgery. Thus, they join every other athlete who comes back to the game more quickly than we expected with a cloud hanging over them. We’ve grown to believe a knee injury or a pitcher’s elbow surgery means an athlete will be out a year, at least, and then spend another year getting to full strength. Since Peterson and others are coming back as good as ever in months, we’re rushing to assume they used performance enhancing drugs. That’s not fair.

My 17-year-old son is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior (who doesn’t pitch for an Empire high school). His surgery was done by Dr. Arthur Ting, a noted sports surgeon who works out of Fremont. The quality of work Dr. Ting did in replacing my son’s ulnar collateral ligament is the first reason my son was throwing 5 1/2 months after surgery and pitching off a mound 7 months following the procedure. My son is a hard worker who wanted to get back on the mound, so he put in the time … rehabilitated wisely with Dr. Ting’s guidance … and didn’t push things. He apparently did the right things to get back into a game far quicker than I ever dreamed he would.

My son didn’t use PEDs. Even if we’d had access to and money for state-of-the-art PEDs, he just wouldn’t use them. He’s grown up in the Steroids Era and has decided the risk isn’t worth the potential reward. He just had a first-rate surgeon rebuild his elbow and then spent months following doctors orders. If an athlete devotes himself to working hard at returning to competition following surgery these days, there’s no limit to how quickly they can come back. Imagine what a star with access to NFL or NBA rehab specialists can do if my kid came back rehabbing on his own after 11 months?

My son didn’t want a bunch of sports rehab people messing with him, so after initial work to get range of motion back — he dealt only with his doctor to chart a course for his return to the mound. Doctors like Ting know so much more about the psychological part of the rehab process now. So, my son knew in advance the emotional hurdles he would have to clear. He knew that he would try to protect the elbow, even when he’d been given a complete bill of health. It’s easier to get back to proper throwing mechanics when he’d been warned of every single thing a rehabbing pitcher typically feels and thinks.

Twenty years ago, surgeons fixed a ligament injury and the athlete was left to wonder what every post-op twinge meant. They didn’t know as much then about building up supporting muscles or about, say, how the shoulder needs special attention after a pitcher sits idle for 6 months after elbow surgery. Now, they know … nothing that Peterson or Rose faced was likely a surprise to them.

Dr. Ting explained that my son wouldn’t come back with the 90 mph fastball people who know more about pitching than I do figured he’d have at this point. When Ting said that the elbow isn’t intended to throw fastball after fastball after fastball, my son prepared to get hitters out with his other pitchers. Dr. Ting didn’t gloss over reality. He told my kid he’d get whatever his best fastball becomes back by this summer, but that he had to know that he’d make his life a lot easier if he didn’t come back as the flame-throwing high school pitcher who relies on fastballs he throws hard, harder and hardest.

My son’s a long way from being the best he can be, I imagine. But, he’s back pitching pretty well for his high school team well under a year after elbow surgery. He didn’t use PEDs, so we shouldn’t assume that big-time athletes use them when they come back far more quickly from surgery than athletes did in what now seems like the Stone Age of sports medicine.

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  1. J Denbo

    Good column. A tiny peak into what must be volumes of the good doctor’s excellant council for a successful recovery.

    February 25th, 2013 2:38 pm

  2. overtime

    JD…And, maybe, the dozen or so readers will give more thought to the fact that not every athlete who comes back quickly or does something surprising is using PEDs. TED

    February 25th, 2013 3:29 pm

  3. Jim Uhey

    Great article and update on your son’s rehab. Thanks.

    February 25th, 2013 4:42 pm

  4. Kbps

    I have thought about this and I may be completely off base but here is what sounds reasonable to me. Some pro athletes are under an immense amount of pressure to succeed. Some are scared to death of failure or getting beat out or cut. Some can’t even think of life after pro sports. That mind set may also think that “the other guy” MUST be doing something to get back to game form. These pressures could very easily push some athletes to take the PED’s. Just as some athletes understand the ‘big picture’ and make the decision to let nature take its course.

    February 25th, 2013 6:34 pm

  5. overtime

    KB…You make good sense. In fact, it probably works like that and guys face the decision that involves using PEDs to do their job longer, do it better and make more money for more years for their families. If somebody had a drug that made me better at this job and added years to a career and zeroes at the end of my weekly salary…I imagine I’d take it. Ted

    February 25th, 2013 7:58 pm

  6. overtime

    Jim…Ideally people will keep in mind that a diligent worker can return after sports surgery without automatically assuming they used PEDs. TED

    February 25th, 2013 8:03 pm

  7. The Bat

    Glad to hear he’s recovered from his surgery and is doing well. You must be very proud. To me, there is nothing good about using PED’s; you may be able to train harder, get big faster, and recover from injury quicker, but my understanding is the long-term effects of using these drugs far outweighs whatever positive effects they may have, not to mention their role in behavioral changes, violent mood swings and suicidal thoughts, especially in young people. I was working in the news room when Rob Garibaldi, a local baseball prospect who had played at USC, committed suicide. Steroid use was believed to have contributed greatly to his situation. Very sad. Not a viable option, in my opinion. I will always caution my children against them.

    February 26th, 2013 12:04 pm

  8. overtime

    Bat…People who commit suicide tend to have problems you and I couldn’t begin to understand, but we feel better if we can make such a tragic event make sense. So, we blame it on steroid use or something that probably only played in a role. … I’d suggest if you’re really interested in knowing what the long-term impact of PEDs is when they’re used properly that you look into it online. I promise that what we hear from the baseball writers, etc. isn’t very accurate. You might reconsider the value of PEDs that help you train harder, recover more quickly and get bigger, stronger and faster if you were, oh, an NFL player. TED

    February 26th, 2013 12:49 pm

  9. Tess

    Your son is fortunate on two fronts. Modern medicine and a concerned parent. Is Mom on board?
    Hope he has a great season

    February 26th, 2013 3:45 pm

  10. overtime

    Tess…My son and daughter both are actually being raised by their mother and their father…we’ve tended to share the job since, oh, the second they were born. Hold it … sorry … that reads as me being really defensive. Yes…his mom was just as involved as his dad in the whole process from needing to really work at finding a doctor who could figure out why his arm was sore to making sure that he didn’t have the surgery done by just any doctor the system threw at him. When one of us went to a doctor visit with him, we shared notes. He’s got an amazing mother.

    I’m curious … why did you wonder about his mom’s role? I don’t think I’m as aware of family splits over youth and high school sports as some. Thanks for reading. TED

    February 27th, 2013 12:27 pm

  11. Tess

    Please,there was no offense intended. As I said your son, and also his sister , are very lucky . My question was more in acknowledgement that mom can be more protective of children then dad. Also traditionally many woman value sports participation less then men.
    Having mom & dad involved in their life & committed to joint decisions is a benefit many modern children miss. Having parents who jointly participate in the parenting role is a wonderful advantage. From your response I sense the children understand and appreciate this. Kudo’s to mom and dad

    February 28th, 2013 4:49 pm

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