Senior twins Charlie and Henry Kircher began their baseball careers in kindergarten, going to Little League games and tossing the ball in the backyard together. They went through two seasons of high school baseball tryouts together, pushing each other to throw farther and swing harder. And they simultaneously ended their baseball careers together this year, after both experiencing the same posterior labral tear.
Charlie and Henry have gone to months of physical therapy and spent years trying to fully recover from their injuries. However, both twins have decided to quit baseball this season after experiencing the same shoulder injury, a posterior labral tear, in 8th grade.
“I could never play back to the level of how I felt before,” Charlie said. “That was really frustrating, especially with the competitiveness of this year’s team.”
Henry’s injury came first. He swung in the middle of the game and suddenly felt his shoulder click out of place. After trying to play for the rest of the inning, he eventually had to stop playing because of the extreme pain. Henry received an MRI and went to three different orthopedic surgeons to seek the best treatment for what was deemed a posterior labral tear. It was then decided that he would travel to Vail to have surgery, which was home to the Steadman Clinic, a world-renowned orthopedic clinic.
A month later, Charlie was diagnosed with the same injury after colliding with a first baseman. This meant he, too, would have to head to the Steadman Clinic for surgery a month after Henry’s had.
“I thought there was no way I could have the same injury as [Henry],” Charlie said. “It’s not a very common injury among baseball players, so it just seemed like a really big coincidence that it happened to me, too.”
Posterior labral tears are common among NFL lineman, not high school baseball players, because of the pushing motion they exert when tackling, which is a similar motion Charlie experienced when he crashed into the first baseman. It occurs when the cartilage between the shoulder socket and shoulder capsule tears, which requires surgery to permanently stitch the two together.
After being unable to throw the ball as far or swing the bat as hard prior to their injury, Charlie and Henry both made the difficult decision to ultimately quit baseball and prevent further damage. Unlike a broken arm, a posterior labral tear never fully heals because stitches always have to hold the injury in place. This prevents most patients from ever fully recovering from the injury.
“With the competitiveness of this year’s team, I didn’t really want to join when I couldn’t make long throws and couldn’t pitch anymore,” Charlie said. “It’s hard to sit on the bench knowing you’ll never be able to play back to the level you were before.”
Though Charlie and Henry can’t confirm that their identical DNA contributed to each of them getting the same injury, they have concluded that they both must have weak shoulders.
“Heredity defines the strength of the body’s tendons and the likelihood of their failure at a given age,” according to Peter Sallay on iuhealth.org, a physician at Indiana University’s Health’s partner, Methodist Sports Medicine.
Even though the two have both had to quit baseball, they agree that working together has been beneficial to the rehabilitation of their shoulders. With surgeries only a month apart, Charlie and Henry were on the same track all through physical therapy.
It began with slowly trying to loosen up their shoulders. They would lifted 10 pound weights together and slowly built their way up to 15. They sat side by side as they stretched out their arms with resistance bands, describing to each other how the pain was that day. Then they would build up strength together by tossing medicine balls back and forth. Little by little, they would add more distance to their throws, seeing who could throw the ball harder or farther.
Charlie and Henry also have a younger brother, freshman George Kircher, who is in his first season of playing East baseball. He has begun taking steps to prevent the same injury from affecting him. By strengthening his arm through weightlifting and exercise, George expects to avoid the same injury.
“Hopefully we can get at least one of us to play all four years,” Charlie said.
Their baseball careers began together on the same little league team, and years later it ended together after failure to fully recover from the same posterior labral tears. However, the pain of their shoulder injury and quitting baseball is lessened a little knowing they have been able to go through it together.