A Baseball Journey Back To The Mound, Featuring North Kingstown’s Henry Hersum

A few months have passed since I had an update to share with you regarding a very talented right handed Pitcher from North Kingstown and Rhode Island’s Prout School – Henry Hersum. Henry found out in his Spring Collegiate baseball season with Virginia’s Old Dominion University that he had sustained a UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament) injury and would require season ending Tommy John surgery to repair his arm. Back in the late Spring, early Summer, I connected with Henry and his family on the injury, how it happened, and asked Henry if he would like to document his journey from that point of injury diagnosis to the point of recovery and normal baseball activity. He agreed and for those needing a refresher, here is the article – Henry Hersum, Part 1.

So here is where we left off with Henry’s final notes post op:

With the help of my advisor, I was fortunate to get into see Dr Andrews at Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and get my surgery scheduled about 3-4 weeks after I had the incident occur. While at Andrews Institute I learned that it’s very typical for guys with bone spurs to tear their UCLs and in my case it was just a matter of time.  Now, I am about 5 weeks post op, and have started physical therapy and am on my way to coming back.

And now an update from Henry, emailed to me jus this past week, as he continues his Baseball Journey Back To The Mound:

Henry, last we communicated, you were starting physical therapy.  Where did you end up going to rehab?

With the recommendations from Dr. Andrews and Matt Hopkins from Hops Athletic Performance in Coventry, RI, I worked with Mark Bastan at Elite Physical Therapy in Cranston, RI for the first 12 weeks of the rehab protocol. Mark actually trained at Andrews Institute under Dr. Andrews previously. For the next phase of the Andrews protocol I have made the move to Florida where my grandparents reside, and I have continued my rehab with Tyler Brady at Diamond Physical Therapy run by Eric Schoenburg in the Cressey Sports Performance Center in Palm Beach Gardens. 

What were some of the rehab days like?  Specifically, what types of exercises were you asked to perform?

For the first few weeks I was in a hard cast after the surgery, so once I got that off, the first week or two after that was mostly just focused on restoring the range of motion in my arm. From there, I gradually started doing shoulder raises in all planes of motion with low weight dumbbells. Restoring my grip strength with various gripping and forearm strengthening exercises was also a constant for the rehab protocol. Around week 6 I was able to progress to doing pain free push ups for the first time since the surgery. The next progression I did was overhead med ball dribbles against a wall, and some arm path deceleration exercises. That was essentially the main base for the first 12 weeks of my rehab. 

How long were the rehab sessions – 1/2 hour, hour, several hours?

I would typically be at Elite Physical Therapy for 2 hours for every session. A typical session would start with soft tissue work to loosen up the scar tissue from the surgery. Then I would get right into some forearm and shoulder isometric holds as well as stretches, followed by the workout regimen. Typically I would do a dumbbell routine for my shoulders as well as my forearms, followed by various stability exercises. I would usually end each session with 10-15 minutes of biking. 

Were you able to run, strength train your other body parts, etc. while you were rehabbing your arm?

I was fortunate to have longtime friend Tate Copeland who currently pitches at Quinnipiac University also going through the same tommy john rehab I am. Tate and I went to Prout together and had trained together through our senior year at Prout during covid when the spring season was unfortunately canceled. We had made huge strides in our pitching development with John DeRouin and Matt Hopkins at Hop’s Athletic Performance and were hoping to have a fun senior season until covid shut things down. Fast forward two years later and we both had tommy john surgery two weeks apart. After a certain point in our rehab, we were able to hit the Narragansett High School track and run sprints, as well as the local YMCA to do lower body workouts. We were also able to do some ultimate frisbee which was a fun way to get some running in. 

Once I continued my rehab at Cressey Sports Performance, I was able to get back into full weightlifting and Cressey strength coach, Dylan Lidge, has been writing my lifting programs tailored to my strengths, weaknesses, and imbalances. I am now at a point where I am definitely the strongest and most athletic I have felt in my life, so I am really happy with how my body feels right now. 

Try to sum up the rehab process emotionally – tough days, good days, frustration,

I think one of the biggest challenges I have had thus far is accepting and being okay with my arm not feeling good everyday. For the first couple weeks there was usually a week where my arm would feel great and normal, followed by a week where it would feel like you would expect your arm to feel after having a major surgery. The struggle with that for me is it can be a little frustrating to have a day where my arm feels back to normal and great and then a day where it feels like I am taking a step back in a way. Although the bad days and good days are all part of the process, I think my main focus right now is realizing it’s still normal for my arm to not feel 100 percent, and it may continue to be that way for a while. Now that I am back into the full swing with weightlifting, I’ve been loving the process of baseball training again and taking it one day at a time. I’ve really just been locked in to the present and doing my rehab and training to the best of my ability, and trying to not have any expectations of throwing certain speeds by certain dates. I think I used to be a huge goal setter when it came to training and pitching velocity, which wasn’t a bad thing, but I think for me that’s not the best approach to have for this process. 

 Have you sought help or advice on pushing through the emotions?

A good friend and motivational speaker from Old Dominion, Beau Cowan, would say “dominate the day”, and that’s really all I am focused on for this portion of my rehab. I’m focused on the present day and hopefully at the end of the rehab the days will add up and I’ll be back to striking guys out. 

Upon getting the news I had tore my UCL I reached out to Mason Feole who also had tommy john surgery and went to Prout, and is now currently in pro ball. Mason had some great advice for me for the mental aspect of keeping a good state of mind after hearing the news you won’t be able to pitch again for a year. Mason is also an online coach with Connected Performance, run by Ben Baggett and Ian Walsh, who were my pitching development coaches at Combine Academy in North Carolina, where I did my post graduate year. 

The Perfect Game WWBA Worlds tournament is held in Jupiter every year, so this year I was able to watch some friends and former teammates from Combine Academy play. I was also able to reconnect with the coaches from the Brewers Scout team that I played on two years ago as well as Mike Porzio and my advisor. Mike Porzio brought me onto his travel team, “The Clubhouse” out of Fairfield, Connecticut and got me opportunities in baseball that I had no idea were possible.  Being able to be around the competitive baseball environment again and talk with the mentors who helped me get to where I was, was an amazing experience to have. A lot of people like to talk about while you’re working towards something that you should always remember why you started. For me, talking to these great mentors in my baseball career helped remind me of the great leaps I made to get to throwing 95+ mph and get on the radar of many major league scouts before my injury. The conversations I was able to have with those guys was definitely something I needed during my rehab process. 

While training at Cressey Sports Performance, I am blessed with the opportunity of being surrounded by tons of pro ball players in which a large majority have gone through the tommy john process already. It has been awesome to be able to talk to them about the process and get some reassurance that on the days my arm isn’t feeling great that it’s completely normal. 

Getting back to the throwing a baseball question, since it has been several months post-surgery, have you started a throwing program?

I have just recently started throwing a baseball again, and nothing beats the feeling of the laces coming off my fingertips as I release the ball. Right now I am throwing three days a week, and really just trying to get the feel I once had back. After talking to a lot of guys who previously had tommy john surgery, a common theme I have heard and am dealing with myself is just trusting my arm again, and letting it be loose rather than trying to protect it and have a pushy arm action. 

As you can read from Henry’s candid and wonderfully honest answers, this journey back to the mound pushes you physically, emotionally in so many ways. I loved reading that Henry has sought counsel from other players who have experienced this UCL recovery and what helped them get back on the mound. From the looks of the photos and videos, and reading Henry’s positive notes about working progressively towards “trusting my arm again,” I cannot wait to read more updates over the winter and into the Spring. And share Henry’s positive story with the Rhode Island Baseball Community as his makes his way back to the pitcher’s mound!

Huge thanks to Henry Hersum for the journal notes and the photos/video. Dominate the day Henry!!!

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