Yankees’ pitcher Michael Pineda recently returned from the disabled list and had a less than impressive outing for the Yankees. In fact, his performance since he returned from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, in which he had a labral repair, has been unpredictable. He has had performances that were very impressive, such as the outing in May against the Orioles where he struck out 16 batters. Unfortunately, he has had many outings that were below his common pre-surgical level.
This is a common issue with professional throwing athletes after arthroscopic labral repairs. In fact, in published studies reviewing the outcomes for SLAP (labral) repairs it was found that SLAP repairs have excellent outcomes for non-professional, non-throwing athletes, but results are much less predictable for elite throwing athletes. The study found that about 2 out of 3 high level throwing athletes were able to get back to the same level. Moreover, if there is, in addition to the labral tear, some partial tearing of the rotator cuff then the results are even slightly worse.
So, what does this mean? Essentially, if a you are not an elite, high-level throwing athlete then you can expect excellent results after a labral repair. Unfortunately, if you are a high-level throwing athlete, such as a professional pitcher, then there is a chance you will not be able to return to that same level of performance prior to the injury.
Professional pitchers have an intangible that simple anatomy cannot explain. There is no clear explanation why someone has the gift of being able to throw a ball 95 miles per hour. Therefore, when there is a serious injury, simply repairing the tear (no matter how perfectly repaired it is) may not fully bring back that extraordinary gift.
In the case of Michael Pineda, he often shows moments of brilliance on the mound and sometimes his performances have been less than expected. Whether his extraordinary gift fully and consistently returns remains to be seen.