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Patrick Handword presenting at poster day

Pitching His Research: Patrick Handwork, M3

In the eyes of Patrick Handwork, a third-year College of Medicine student, he hit a home run when he was accepted to conduct research alongside some of the Cleveland Indians’ top physicians this summer.

Handwork was one among almost 90 Northeast Ohio Medical University students who participated in the University’s Summer Research Fellowship Program. Along with his peers from the Colleges of Medicine, Pharmacy and Graduate Studies, Handwork presented his research at NEOMED’s annual Poster Day, held Friday, Aug. 24.

Surgery’s impact on pitching

“Have you ever heard of ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery? The ulnar collateral ligament in your elbow is used to stabilize the elbow when it’s in motion. You see this a lot in baseball pitchers; they’re very susceptible to this injury. Nearly every MLB pitcher will undergo this surgery at one point in their lives, especially if they’ve done a great deal of pitching over time.’’

That was third-year College of Medicine student Patrick Handwork’s opening pitch, so to speak, to explain his research.

“Overall as researchers, we have a pretty good overview of what to expect from players during a game, but we don’t know what to expect when it comes to pitching habits following this surgery – particularly,  the number of fastballs, changeups and sliders the athlete/patient will throw afterward. So that’s what we wanted to start going out to investigate. We figure that because fastballs typically put the most strain on the elbow, those stats will decrease and all the other low-velocity pitches will rise.

“It’s a pretty well-studied surgery and there have been a lot of great successes when players return to play. But, there are mixed statistics on how well they play post-surgery, in terms of statistics. Some studies say that the stats don’t change much, while others see a decrease in certain pitches.

“We ended up discovering a fairly significant decrease in the number of fastballs that athletes pitched after ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgeries. We hope that the data from this study can be utilized by surgeons to provide realistic expectations to athletes undergoing ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction and to inspire future studies to look at post-operative pitching performance.

The value of mentors

“I loved working with the orthopedic surgeons. It was great because that’s an area I’m really considering, possibly even a sports medicine fellowship. It was great having the opportunity to work with Eric Peterson, M.D., an orthopedic surgery resident at Summa Health, as well as Salvatore Frangiamore, M.D., an attending orthopedic surgeon at Summa Health. I also had the opportunity to learn from Mark Schickendantz, M.D., the head team physician for the Cleveland Indians, and Lonnie Soloff, the senior director of medical services for the Cleveland Indians. It gave me an inside look at how medicine functions in professional sports and taught me a lot about conducting research in the area of orthopedics,” Handwork said.