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As Strasburg's Season Wanes, A Debate On Inning Limits After Tommy John

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While the Washington Nationals are closing in on their first National League Eastern Division title, more focus is going to Stephen Strasburg's inning count rather than the team's on-field play.

The Nats star right-hander has a maximum of two more starts before the team will shut him down for the year. This is Strasburg's first full season since he underwent "Tommy John" surgery on his right elbow, and the Nationals at the beginning of the year decided to restrict him to pitching no more than 160 innings this season out of fear that any more could lead to re-injury.  

But not everyone signs on to the idea of limiting innings during a Tommy Jonn patient's first year back. Dr. David Geyer, an orthopedic surgeon at the Medical University of South Carolina, believes the inning count is an "arbitrary" number which guarantees little.

"There just isn't a lot of data because fortunately most of these surgeries on Major League pitchers do well, so not that many of them fail," Geyer says. "So it's really hard to identify specific risk factors for pitchers to have that ligament tear again."

Geyer does applaud the Nationals for thinking of Strasburg's long-term future on the mound by trying to prevent re-injury, he says. There's good reason to, he adds, because pitchers who must undergo Tommy John surgery twice rarely return to form.

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