Naturally, everyone in Washington D.C. is freaking out over the news that Stephen Strasburg will need to have Tommy John surgery. It's obviously a scary thought that Strasburg is having such a major surgery so early in his career.
At the same time, it's 2010, not 1980. Tommy John surgery just isn't a career-killer like it used to be. SB Nation's Jeff Sullivan explains that and more in this must-read analysis of the situation.
The good news is: probably, yes, he should be able to make a complete recovery. Though Tommy John surgery was experimental 35 years ago, it's become rather common of late, and it's become common precisely because it works so well. Success rates are usually quoted to be around 85-90%, and while one's success rate depends on how one defines success, Tommy John surgery is way preferable to, say, surgery to repair a torn labrum in the shoulder. If a pitcher has to suffer a major injury, you'd always rather it happen in the elbow than the shoulder, because shoulders are complicated, and injured shoulders can ruin careers.
Sullivan notes a ton of current Major League pitchers who have recovered from Tommy John surgery before concluding with this:
Tommy John surgery used to be something of a fright. Nowadays, it's more of a delay.
It's a good reminder that, as crazy as it sounds, Strasburg's injury could have been worse. There's no guarantee Strasburg will fully recover and get back to where he was this season, but chances are higher than it would seem.