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The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Kai Peterson prepares for his return to the pitching mound after Tommy John surgery
Graphic created by Casey Rafter | editor-in-chief | [email protected] using

Though he joined the City College baseball team after graduating high school in 2020, Kai Peterson has not been able to play or practice for the team — and not just because of pandemic restrictions.

Peterson suffered an injury as a pitcher throwing for Roseville’s Oakmont High School, which required him to undergo surgery to repair his torn ulnar collateral ligament. The operation, better known as Tommy John surgery, is named for the major league pitcher who had the same procedure successfully performed in 1974.

Before his injury, Peterson recalled that he felt an uncomfortable sensation while pitching. But it was not until he threw one ball while practicing in his junior year that he seriously injured himself.

“I went out one time during December to throw,” said Peterson. “I threw a ball and it just popped — that is when I knew [that something was wrong].”
About a month after his injury, on Jan. 15, 2020, Peterson underwent elbow surgery.

Since 1974, numerous baseball players from amateur to pro-level have undergone Tommy John surgery. After undergoing the same procedure, Peterson is now eyeing a return to the pitching mound as well as to Panthers baseball activities.

“I just wish more people understood the severity of the surgery,” said City College baseball pitching coach Deskaheh Bomberry. “It’s not that simple or straightforward.”

Despite how common the injury is, successful surgery of this magnitude is considered an achievement, according to Bomberry. There’s no guarantee that the surgery will have a positive or negative effect on a player’s skill level.

“They take a tendon from your hamstring or calf then weave what would serve as a new ligament through four drilled holes into your bones,” said Bomberry.

According to Bomberry, there is a misconception that, when pitchers undergo the surgery, they’ll be able to resume playing promptly. The reality is the patients are stuck in a physical therapy office not knowing if they will ever heal properly.

“It’s unfair for the people going through it,” said Bomberry. “It’s a long experience to go through, and you’re also away from your team.”

After a successful surgery, Peterson’s recovery process worked to restore the function of his elbow. He had limited mobility of his arm and now has a tendon from his wrist serving as a ligament in his elbow.

“I went through about five months of physical therapy,” said Peterson. “That’s about how long it took to gain some strength back. When I started [the healing process], I could barely bend my elbow or extend it.”

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During last year’s canceled season due to the pandemic, Peterson began to practice throwing and felt he was near the end of his recovery.

“I was planning on coming back for this season, but there are only going to be 15 games [due to a shortened season], so I’ll be redshirting [for the reserve team],” said Peterson. “That will give more time for my arm to heal so I can throw in the summer.”

Since beginning to practice, Peterson has experienced pain in the back of his elbow. This setback has made him decide to take another break from practice.

“I don’t know what it is yet, but my surgeon believes it’s a side effect from my surgery,” said Peterson.

According to Bomberry, the average return time after such a surgery is about 16 months, but putting a date on when a player can come back can cause extra pressure while healing from such an extensive surgery.

“It’s going to take as long as it takes,” said Bomberry. “You’re either on schedule or behind schedule when it comes to this surgery.”

During the 13 months of team meetings that were canceled due to COVID-19 protocols, Bomberry stayed in contact with Peterson to monitor his healing process.

“I checked in with him a couple of times a week just to see how things were going,” said Bomberry. “It seems like the recovery and rehab have gone very well for him.”

While Bomberry acknowledged Peterson’s severe injury, Bomberry said that going through such an experience makes players much more appreciative of what they have.

“He’s had people who are in his corner that maybe he didn’t notice when he wasn’t hurt,” said Bomberry. “They want the best for him, and they’re going to do whatever it takes to help him.”

Peterson agreed that his experience of injury and recovery has taught him to be grateful for everyone around him.

“It wasn’t just me,” said Peterson. “When I had to [go to] rehab, I was the main person, but it took a village to come back. It took help from my family, my physical therapy guy, my surgeon, all my friends, and coaches.”

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