Amid a pair of high-profile cases, the nation's most prominent elbow surgeon has suspended Tommy John surgeries at his Florida clinic due to the state's ban on non-essential medical procedures.
A spokesman for Dr. James Andrews told the Boston Globe the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine has temporarily suspended those operations in accordance with Gov. Ron DeSantis' March 20 order that prohibits "any medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery" due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this month, star pitchers Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox and Noah Syndergaard of the New York Mets were diagnosed with elbow issues that necessitated Tommy John surgery.
Sale had surgery Monday at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Syndergaard had his performed last week by Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Both are classified as specialized orthopedic facilities, not public hospitals. But the fact that these pro athletes were still able to get their operations during a nationwide crisis raises other questions, according to David Magnus, a professor of medicine and biomedical ethics at Stanford University.
“People worry about the fact that testing may not have been fairly distributed, so people who are famous or are athletes get access when others don’t,” Magnus told Sports Illustrated. “If the same is true for surgeries, you can’t have elective surgeries under any circumstances unless you’re an athlete, that would foster mistrust and problems with the public around their views about the health system.”
The question boils down to what constitutes essential and what constitutes elective surgery.
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"I know that I'm going to get criticized for taking care of these kinds of guys, but it's essential to their livelihoods," ElAttrache told the San Francisco Chronicle last week.
For the pitchers, undergoing the elbow procedure as soon as possible is preferable because it allows them to start the recovery process — which ranges anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
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