20-Year-Old Pitcher Dies After Common Sports Surgery

George Mason's Sang Ho Baek, 20, had 'Tommy John' procedure
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 20, 2021 6:37 AM CDT
College Baseball Player Dies After Routine Surgery

It's called an ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction in the medical textbooks, but the sports world and pretty much everyone else knows it as Tommy John surgery. "Relatively routine" is how a Boston University School of Public Health doctor describes it to the New York Times. But a 20-year-old pitcher with George Mason University died of complications from the procedure earlier this month, per Sports Illustrated. Sang Ho Baek, a native of South Korea who grew up in Maryland, died on June 12, according to a news release from the Virginia school's athletic department. Baek had the surgery after wrapping up his freshman season, one in which he battled injuries in seven appearances.

“His death is tragic,” says the Boston U doctor. “It is hard to say what happened and it will require an autopsy to determine the cause here. All surgeries, even relatively minor and routine ones, carry some risk.” Baek died at a medical facility in Maryland. Pitchers undergo the surgery to repair a torn ligament inside their elbow, and it's named after the first Major Leaguer to undergo it. “Sang was an incredible teammate who was loved by everyone associated with Mason baseball," says coach Bill Brown in the university statement. A teammate set up a GoFundMe account for Baek's family. (Read more George Mason University stories.)

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