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Is surgery changing baseball?

By: Robert Lamb

Is science changing the face of baseball? Can modern surgery elevate us to a higher human form?
Is science changing the face of baseball? Can modern surgery elevate us to a higher human form?
Donald Miralle /Lifesize/Getty Images

When a Major League Baseball player approaches the pitcher's mound, he has a lot riding on his shoulders. Like any player, he has the outcome of the inning and ultimately the game to worry about -- something he shares with all players, right down to children swinging sticks in the Dominican Republic, Japan, the United States and other big baseball countries.

Yet also riding on his back is his very livelihood, the standing of his team and the multibillion-dollar industry that is professional baseball. Gamblers and fans stake fortunes and reputations on the outcome of the game. For many, the lone baseball player may be a hero, an obsession or even a god.

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Given these conditions, what wouldn't a baseball player do to maintain his place in this unreal spectacle? Unlike the figures of fiction and legend, today's baseball players can't sell their souls to the devil in exchange for a better batting average or a lengthy string of shutouts. Yet modern medical science has unleashed quite a few game-changing innovations, both legal and illegal. For a price, anabolic steroids and human growth hormone allow athletes to reclaim their youth or cheat the limits of their genetic code. As U.S. Congress and sports governing bodies can attest, these substances continue to shake both professional and amateur sports, despite strict rules against their usage.

­Yet although a pitcher may be prohibited from injecting performance-enhancing chemicals into his body, multiple surgical options exist for anyone with the big league money to pay for them. These procedures can turn back the clock on an ageing athlete's body and allow for more effective and speedier recovery from career-threatening injuries. Some even insist that the right tweaks with a surgeon's blade can elevate an athlete's performance.

Like it or not, these procedures are changing the world of baseball as we know it.

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