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LVHN Rehab Program Allows Bethlehem Pitcher to Get Back on the Mound

Matt Morrow's rehab helps him get back on the pitch

Matt Morrow reared back, looking for what he had hoped would be the best fastball he had thrown that March 8, 2020, game against State University of New York–Brockport. But as soon as he released the pitch, the University of Scranton righthander knew something wasn’t right.

“I felt a pulling sensation on the underside of my elbow,” the 22-year-old Bethlehem, Pa., native remembers. “It wasn’t painful, but I was hesitant to really let it go after that.”

Morrow would pitch 4 1/3 innings that day in what would end up a 6-1 victory. As part of his post-appearance routine, he would throw on the sideline the following day.

“I was just lobbing the ball 10-15 feet and I could really feel it,” he says. “It just continued to get worse after that.”

Forced rest

Scranton’s season was shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic a few days later. Morrow looked at it as a blessing in disguise, figuring rest would take care of the issue. The elbow didn’t bother him doing normal activities. But when he tried to throw again that fall, the problem was still there.

“He came to me fearing he may need Tommy John surgery, which is replacing a torn ligament in the elbow,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network orthopedic surgeon Nicholas Slenker, MD, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine–1621 N. Cedar Crest. “Initially, it seemed more like a sprain than a tear. But an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) showed no structural damage, which certainly was good news.”

Slenker ordered a platelet-rich plasma injection, which uses components from a patient’s own blood to stimulate healing, then sent Morrow to Coordinated Health colleague Michael Price, PT, a top physical therapist.

Source of elbow pain

“It’s an interesting phenomenon in that baseball players coming to me with elbow pain rarely have actual problems with the elbow,” Price says. “In Matt’s case, he had a lot of tightness in his right shoulder as well as some weakness in his wrist that was causing the pain. This is not uncommon after a lot of repetitive motion in throwing.”

Price cited a study of Major League pitchers which indicated a pitcher loses up to 10 degrees of motion in his shoulder during a typical outing. Overuse can lead to shoulder and wrist problems such as Morrow’s if not addressed between appearances.

“With Matt, we put together a program of stretching, working with resistance bands, cord and cables, and some light weight-training,” Price says. “He started with us on Nov. 2 [2020] and began to throw again on Jan. 12, 2021. He was discharged from our program on Jan. 28.”

Earning wins without pain

Morrow returned to the mound for Scranton on March 27, throwing an inning against Moravian University. Three days later, he would earn a win against Moravian after pitching two innings. Morrow would make seven appearances on the season, contributing to the Royals winning the Landmark Conference championship and earning a berth in the NCAA Division III Regionals at Collegeville, Minn. He pitched an inning against eventual national runner-up St. Thomas (Minn.) in his lone NCAA appearance.

Morrow is going back to Scranton for his master’s degree in business administration but won’t be playing any more collegiately. He hopes to play in adult leagues and may see where his pitching can take him professionally down the road. 

“I was able to get close to my top velocity, about 92 mph,” says Morrow, a standout hurler during his days at Bethlehem Catholic High School. “I owe everything to Mike Price. He’s a great person and a great physical therapist. He went to every length possible to take care of my problem. I will always be grateful to Mike and to Dr. Slenker.”

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