Treatment for Pinched Nerve Allows Pitcher to Play College Ball

By Katrina Dupins

Two years ago, Kindrick began experiencing severe pain in her pitching arm. She had been treated with a variety of diagnoses including tendinitis and stress fractures. But none of the treatments were able to return her to previous performance levels.

“I rested over the summer and the fall,” Kindrick said. “I ended up getting no more injuries on it. Everything was fine, but it never felt completely whole.”

Still, Kindrick had high hopes as she entered her senior year in 2015. She noticed a little pain in practices, but figured it was just soreness as she got back into the swing of the game.

The Cyclones were playing Greenwood in their conference opener.

Andrea Kindrick smiles after receiving news that she has been cleared to practice softball without restriction three months after surgery. She’ll play for the University of Alabama starting Fall 2015.

“During the second inning, the pain became excruciating,” Kindrick said. “I couldn’t grasp the ball like I wanted while pitching. Even when I was at bat, I didn’t have as much power.”

Kindrick finished pitching to the last batter in the inning, and was in tears from the pain.

“I thought I had another stress fracture,” Kindrick said. “It felt the way it did when I was first diagnosed.”

Kindrick’s parents took her to see Theresa Wyrick, M.D., associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

“When she came into the office, her main complaint were that she had numbness and tingling in the ring and small fingers,” Wyrick said. “She also had lots of burning pain down the forearm which worsened when she tried to throw. It immediately seemed like cubital tunnel syndrome, which is a pinched nerve at the elbow – right at the funny bone.”

Wyrick said high-performance athletes like Kindrick are particularly at risk for developing this pinched nerve because of the repetitive stress across the elbow. Also with throwing athletes, one of the factors that can cause the pinched nerve is the size of the muscle.

“Because she works it out often, the muscle becomes very large and thick. In her case, it was pinching the nerve,” Wyrick said.

Wyrick, Kindrick and Kindrick’s parents talked about treatment.

“It turned out I never had a stress fracture,” Kindrick said. “The whole time, it had been my nerve.”

The family opted for surgery, which would include spreading apart some of the muscle to release the pinched nerve.

“Because she would be going back to the competitive sport, we moved the nerve to a different location, so that it is no longer in front of or underneath the thick area of muscle anymore,” Wyrick said. “That prevents it from pinching the nerve again.”

During her healing and rehabilitation, Wyrick, the trainer and pitching coaches in Alabama have worked together to get Kindrick ready for her freshman year including light-short distance throwing.

“It’s been a collaborative effort to work with them, to get her ready to go there. But also to go at the pace that she needed for her recovery,” Wyrick said. “She’s been a phenomenal patient. She has a drive to get better and it shows.”

Theresa Wyrick, M.D., consults with patient Andrea Kindrick three months after surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome.

Theresa Wyrick, M.D., consults with patient Andrea Kindrick three months after surgery for cubital tunnel syndrome.

“I feel great. It doesn’t hurt,” Kindrick said. “I’m listening to my doctors, trainers and coaches and working my way back gently.”

Wyrick has recently released Kindrick to pitch faster and longer distances.

“I’m optimistic that she’ll get back to the top of her game soon,” Wyrick said. “I’d love to go down and watch her play.”

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