COLUMBIA — Going through rehab can be a difficult process for anyone. There are limitations to tasks and abilities that you used to be able to perform. The mental strain rehab can be overwhelming, especially for a baseball player during season.
In August, Hickman senior pitcher Chris Pfau had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. After eight months of rehabilitation Pfau is finally starting to throw from the mound again.
Hickman head coach Dave Wilson told Pfau that injuries were a part of the game, but he knew someone that Pfau could talk to throughout the rehab process.
As a pitcher, Hickman assistant coach Josh Woodward had the same torn labrum surgery that Pfau had. Woodward sits down regularly with Pfau to talk about his experience with the injury in hopes that he does not come back too soon.
“I made the mistake of trying to rush through my rehab, and I came away with an elbow injury,” Woodward said. “The injury was clearly a result of me trying to come back before I was ready.”
Changing your mechanics is something Woodward says pitchers have to deal with when coming back from an injury. Pitchers try to compensate for a lack of range in motion and this puts additional and unnecessary stress on the body.
Pfau said Woodward has been a huge help because he is able to gauge how much pain should be experienced at any given point in time.
“I really use his experience with the injury and try to relate it to what I am going through,” Pfau said.
Wilson said the relationship between Pfau and Woodward has been beneficial because it gave Pfau someone to talk to.
Woodward said the biggest problem with rehab is not the physical aspect, but how to deal with the process mentally.
“Rehab is mentally grueling because you are watching everyone else play and practice while you are sitting on the sideline not being able to go full speed,” Woodward said.
Pfau said the rehab process has been a long road, but he hopes that he can have the confidence to step on he mound and not worry about the pain.
Although he cannot pinpoint when the injury took place, Pfau says he felt pain as early as last season.
“I would feel pain when I would swing, but not when I was throwing,” Pfau said. “I didn’t really worry about it.”
Then as the 2007 season ended and summer baseball was beginning, the pain moved from the batter’s box to the mound. Pfau went to the doctor who delivered the bad news. Surgery was the only option.
“I was really bummed at first and I didn’t really know what was going on,” Pfau said.
After having an injury, Pfau says, you have to be able to accept that your game may not be the same at it once was. Pfau now exclusively plays right field for the Kewpies.
As a hitter he swings without pain but does not have the same pop. As an outfielder, a lack of arm strength is something Pfau continues to deal with.
“My range is fine, but I’m not able to gun it like I want to,” Pfau said. “The doctors even want me to hit the cutoff man instead of throwing all the way into the infield.”
Wilson said having confidence is the key to being a successful pitcher and Pfau has to have before he can pitch again.
“When you are on the mound, you can’t be worried about an injury,” Wilson said. “The intensity of the game is a lot for a pitcher and you have to be able to cut it loose.”
For Pfau, the medical rehab process has been over for a few weeks now, but he continues to work on strengthening his arm on his own in hopes that he can pitch at game speed soon.
“My family and friends really want me to succeed and do my best out there and that’s pretty much what motivates me to pitch again,” Pfau said.
Recently Pfau has not taken time to relax after a game. Still with black under his eyes and grass stains on his pants, He takes the mound after each game in a simulated bullpen session.
He says the session helps him to keep his arm loose and that throwing after games helps him to retain his control and accuracy.
“I really want to pitch in a game this year, but that is not looking like that is going to happen,” Pfau said. “Hopefully after a good summer I’ll be able to pitch in the fall.”
Starting this fall, Pfau will be attending Forest Park Community College in St. Louis and will be playing for the baseball team where he plans pitch again.