July 20, 2017
In professional sports, staying off of the disabled list is often as important as performing well under the lights. In Michael Schlact’s case, one shoulder injury sidelined him and caused him to go through grueling rehabilitation. As he fell onto the DL after being a top prospect in the Rangers’ organization, he thought he would seek treatment from the best in the business. Michael Schlact and his wife Jillian decided to make the trek to Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine to see if he could avoid surgery and still return to the mound.
Here is Schlact’s story of the injury and surgery that followed:
Driving up to Cincinnati, OH from Atlanta, GA, Michael Schlact and his wife shared hope that the nationally acclaimed physicians at Beacon Orthopedics and Sports Medicine would be able to help Schlact get back on the mound.
The first impression Schlact had of the sports medicine organization was the life-sized wood statue of a surgeon performing arthroscopic shoulder surgery. The main entrance to the waiting room was flanked by floor-to-ceiling trophy cases filled to the brim with personalized thank you notes on signed memorabilia from every sport imaginable: “Thanks for saving my career, doc.”
“I owe my career to you, Dr. Kremchek.”
“Thank you for allowing me to play the game I love.”
There were hundreds of grateful, heartfelt messages within the trophy cases adorning jerseys, shoes, helmets, balls of all types, bats, gloves, and more. Names like Barry Larkin, Pete Rose, and Ken Griffey from the Reds fit in among notes from big leaguers across the country.
As Schlact and his wife strolled into the waiting room, they noticed hundreds of more pictures and memorabilia covering the walls from athletes, celebrities, and VIPs who were fixed up by the doctors at Beacon Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. In Schlact’s opinion, it was like visiting an extensive Hall of Fame collection.
Dr. Kremchek’s staff welcomed Schlact and his wife, and they were escorted into an exam room. Schlact was put through a series of tests to diagnose the extent of the damage to his right shoulder. Schlact recalls that each test was painful, which caused the doctor to take extensive notes about his injury.
After the painfully thorough examination, an MRI was ordered to review what was going on internally. Schlact walked down the hallway and got his MRI. Within a few minutes, the radiologist was reviewing the scan. Schlact had a previous shoulder surgery, so he was somewhat optimistic that therapy and rehab would be the answer. In Schlact’s opinion, and from those of numerous physicians, a second shoulder surgery meant an abrupt end to his career.
Dr. Tim Kremchek joined the couple in their exam room. He reviewed the MRI, ran a few more physical tests on Schlact’s shoulder, and announced bluntly, “You need another shoulder surgery.” Schlact’s thoughts immediately turned to fear, heartbreak, pain, and numbness: his baseball career was over.
“I will tell you this,” Dr. Kremchek assured him, “I believe with everything that I have that if you do this surgery, you’ll be back on the field again.”
These weren’t hollow words, the trophy cases and memorabilia on the walls are all from grateful athletes that found hope and recovery at Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Dr. Kremcheck’s quiet confidence put Schlact at ease, even though the painful memories of grueling rehab from his first surgery began popping up.
Essentially, it came down to his shoulder capsule being too tight after the initial shoulder surgery, which ultimately resulted in a labral tear when Schlact returned to throwing at such a high level. Dr. Kremchek recommended an arthroscopic shoulder surgery to release the capsule, clean the joint up, and repair the damaged parts of the labrum.
Schlact talked it over with his wife and decided that he didn’t come all the way to Cincinnati to retire from baseball. He had an opportunity to get back on the mound, and he took it. Shortly thereafter, his wife and family were watching the arthroscopic shoulder surgery from the viewing room attached to the operating room.
This means family members can watch their loved one’s surgery without being more than 15 or so feet away. The two rooms are separated by glass, and the surgical team stays in constant communication with viewing family.
Dr. Kremchek recalled Michael Schlact’s surgery. “I call it the ‘TJ Maxx’ issue,” he explained, “How to do the max for the minimum. What I want to do is as little as possible while getting the function back. With Michael, we did a posterior capsular release and then shaved down—debrided—the labrum. Sometimes the shoulder is too loose or too tight. Doing the surgery on the labrum isn’t that difficult, the cuff, the capsule, they’re all just techniques. It’s figuring out which one or ones is necessary to get the player back. You do too much and they’ll never make it.”
Arthroscopic procedures are second nature for Dr. Kremchek. It took him a mere 45 minutes in the operating room to set Schlact up for a comeback. Schlact’s entire Beacon Orthopaedics experience was only about 10 hours.
Schlact recalls, “Leaving Beacon Orthopedics that day, I had no idea what the long-term future held. I did know, however, that I put myself in the care of one of the best surgeons around. A long road of rehabilitation stood in my way of pitching on a mound again some day… I had a renewed sense of hope, faith that I could overcome, and confidence knowing that I had been in this spot before.”
To read the firsthand account of Michael Schlact’s story, as published by Bleacher Report, please click here.