Frank Jobe, MD, a clinical professor of orthopaedics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC who was best known as the originator of Tommy John elbow surgery that helped preserve the careers of a number of Major League Baseball pitchers, passed away on March 7. He was 88.
During his time as an orthopaedic specialist with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jobe first performed ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction on pitcher Tommy John, who was injured during a game against the Montreal Expos in 1974. Previously, this surgery had been performed on polio patients to improve mobility, but had not been tried on athletes.
The UCL is located on the inside of the elbow, connecting the humerus to the ulna. It can be injured through repetitive stress or from trauma. Jobe transplanted a tendon from John’s right wrist to his left elbow. Following surgery and recovery, John went on to have a successful pitching career.
Jobe also developed a shoulder repair procedure that produced less trauma to tissue, which he performed for the first time on Dodgers pitcher and Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser.
Jobe received his medical degree from Loma Linda University, and performed his internship and residency in orthopaedics at LAC+USC Medical Center. He became the Dodgers’ orthopaedic doctor in 1968.
Jobe continued his work with athletes during his long career, serving as the medical director for the PGA Tour & Senior PGA Tour, and consulting with the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Baseball Hall of Fame honored Jobe during a ceremony in July 2013 for his contributions to
“Frank Jobe was an inspiration to all doctors for his commitment to orthopaedic medicine and his innovative techniques for helping professional athletes recover from previously devastating injury,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, dean of the Keck School of Medicine. “His techniques will continue to serve as inspiration for generations of surgeons to follow.”
Jobe was also the founder and medical director of the Biomechanics Laboratory at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles, and co-founder of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. He served as chairman of the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine, president and secretary of the Major League Baseball Physicians Association, and program director of the Western Orthopedic Association.
Jay Lieberman, MD, professor and chair of the Keck School Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, said Jobe “was not only a superb clinician but he was mentor to many of the leaders in sports medicine today. Our hope is that one day he will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to baseball.”