ON THE LONG ROAD BACK

wo pops changed the fate of Paetan Brennan’s varsity baseball season at Seymour High School.

The pitcher remembers that fateful day in extreme detail.

“It was exactly Feb. 22, a Monday,” Brennan said. “I was in the aux gym throwing in the bullpen. With one pitch, I felt a pop on the inside of my elbow — then it got warm and tingly.

“I thought it was a fluke because it didn’t hurt too bad. I went to throw the same change-up, throwing it as hard as I can, and I felt another pop in the same place, and it was twice as bad. I threw my mitt up in the air and held my elbow. I knew it was bad.”

Brennan left the gymnasium, holding his elbow, in search of Seymour athletics trainer Kyle Coates.

Coates then referred Brennan to an orthopedist, who told him to see how it felt in a couple of weeks.

After a week and a half, Brennan elected to get an MRI on his elbow.

“I will never forget it,” Brennan said. “Kyle asked me if he wanted him to read it, and I was sitting there shaking in the room when he had the results. I remember him saying there was a tear, and my heart just dropped. I knew I couldn’t play my senior year.”

The diagnosis was an ulnar collateral ligament tear, an injury that, if elected, is treated by Tommy John surgery.

Brennan chose to undergo the surgery after getting another opinion by the Indianapolis Colts’ team orthopedist at Methodist Sports Medicine.

The surgery takes a tendon, typically from the forearm, and puts it in the medial elbow.

While it may have not been the issue in Brennan’s case, Coates said UCL injury can occur from years of issues.

“A lot of times, at the high school and major-league level, they’re inheriting problems they acquired from as young as Little League and travel baseball,” Coates said.

Coates said solely rehabbing takes six to eight weeks, while surgery can be anywhere from six to 12 months.

In Brennan’s situation, he needed surgery because of the severity.

“Any time you can avoid surgery, you want to,” Coates said. “It just depends on the long-term consequences — if you can get by with rehabbing without needing surgery down the road. It also depends on the severity of the tear and if there are bone chips or nerve damage — rehab won’t fix those.”

The IHSAA requires that teams only throw pitchers a maximum of 10 innings in three consecutive calendar days, with partial innings counting as a full inning.

Pitch Smart, of USA Baseball, requires that pitchers ages 17 to 18 rest four full days after throwing 76-plus pitches with a daily maximum of 120.

“The pitch counts are almost more important at younger ages to protect them once they get older,” Coates said. “We didn’t see this as much in the past because kids didn’t play year-round. Now, you’re seeing it even in middle school kids.”

While the injury is typically seen in baseball, it can transcend to other sports.

“It can occur in other sports like football and wrestling where the elbow is pulled away in an awkward position,” Coates said. “In baseball, it’s almost always a chronic injury. The fibers tear away on it before it fully ruptures. It can be done with one pitch at high velocity, but usually, it’s chronic.”

Brennan said he’s on schedule to take the brace off April 28.

Right now, Brennan is going through rehabilitation in hopes of fully recovering before going to college.

Not letting the injury get him down, Brennan works as a manager in the bullpen — with a big smile on his face — for all of the home and away games while representing the Owls in purple and white.

Author photo
Jordan Morey is sports editor at The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at jmorey@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.