Dylan Chapman is hopeful he can pitch in University’s season finale Friday evening against Waco High.
Not because he wants to get one more outing in on the mound this year.
The junior just wants to pitch.
He’s been limited on the mound since February after learning the pain he first felt back in September was caused by a partial tear of his labrum in his shoulder.
The usual recovery time from an injury like this – just to play in the field and hit – is six to seven months. To return to the mound would take a year, if not longer.
“When this happened, I talked to a good friend of mine who coaches at Texas State, Ty Harrington,” said Kyle Chapman, Dylan’s father and University baseball coach. “He and my little brother are good friends with Casey Fossum, who pitched at Texas A&M and pitched in the pros. Both Ty and Casey said the best person in the state you can go to is the A&M team doctor, J.P. Bramhall.”
In the fall when Dylan first felt the pain in his shoulder, he was originally diagnosed with shoulder impingement.
Dylan went through physical therapy and had gotten better until the pain flared back up in January.
He had an MRI done in early February and took it to Bramhall who said with someone Dylan’s age, the last thing he’d want to do is surgery.
That’s when the Chapmans learned about platelet rich plasma therapy (PRP) — a relatively new treatment option that didn’t require an operation.
“They drain the blood out of my elbow and spin it at a really high speed which makes the plasma separate from everything else,” Dylan said. “Then they re-inject the plasma into my shoulder.”
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, PRP is plasma with more platelets than what is typically found in blood. The concentration of platelets – which contain hundreds of proteins called growth factors which are key in the healing of injuries – can be five to 10 times greater than usual.
After a small amount of blood is drawn from Dylan’s elbow, it is placed into a centrifuge to separate the platelets from the other things in his blood. Then those platelets are injected into his shoulder which stimulates the healing.
“It’s three shots over a 12 week period,” Kyle Chapman said. “We had our first one over spring break. We were scheduled to do the second one last week, but when we went Dylan was progressing so well. All of his strength was back in his shoulder and his rotator cuff and he wasn’t having any pain.
“It dropped down to a two or a three (out of 10) in his shoulder when he threw over the top. The doctor said to hold off on the next shot and let it continue to heal. We’ll go back for another shot in the next week to 10 days.”
There’s not much data with this therapy Dr. Bramhall is doing with Dylan.
It’s been successful with elbows, but there’s not a lot of data with shoulders.
“The few Dr. Bramhall has done so far, he hasn’t had to get to that third injection,” Kyle said. “The person has healed. That’s what we’re hoping. Dylan has shown so much improvement from the first injection over a six week period to now that we’re hoping with the next injection he may be 100 percent.”
Since the first injection, Dylan has pitched in three games.
If the injury still doesn’t heal, there’s still another option before surgery.
Surgery is the last option for Dylan because of the hard recovery it entails.
“If the PRP injections don’t work, they can also inject amniotic fluid into the shoulder,” Kyle said. “It’s more expensive of a process. This is the next step they can do. I guess it’s the stem cells in the amniotic fluid.”
But at the rate Dylan is going, it looks like the PRP injections will do the job.
It will be 12 weeks since his first injection the last week in May.
“I’ve been reading about the prp therapy,” Dylan said. “It significantly reduces Tommy John surgeries. People are very optimistic about it. I’ve read cases where it worked in the shoulder. I’m hoping the same thing happens for me.”
Dylan hasn’t missed a game this season for University despite his injury.
He has still hit and played first base.
It only hurts if he has to progressively throw hard with proper mechanics over the top.
“Dr. Bramhall told me I could throw to comfort,” Dylan said. “He shut me down from pitching for two weeks. He let me continue to hit and play my position. I had a check-up with him, and we discovered that I could throw pain free side-arm. He let me pitch by dropping down my arm slot.”
Dylan, however, has never thrown side-arm before.
“I was learning on the fly and trying to make it work in the middle of the season,” Dylan said. “It was difficult to do. I’ve just been fine tuning my mechanics and seeing what works for me. I’m just doing whatever I can to get through the season.”
Nearly three months ago Dylan was told he had a partially torn labrum.
He should be in the middle of physical therapy after surgery hoping to be fully cleared to pitch by the middle of his senior season a year away.
Instead, Dylan hasn’t missed a single game. He hasn’t had to undergo a painful surgery. He hasn’t even been shut down for an extensive period of time.
“Yeah, it’s a possibility that I can pitch this week,” Dylan said. “We just have to see how I feel. Hopefully, hopefully.”