In the last regular season football game on October 16, 2015, Kale Gerstner tore his ACL, ending his senior football season as well as his final high school basketball season, before it even began. Athletes that suffer a tear to the ACL can hope to return to sports anywhere from four to six months after surgery.
“When it first happened, I didn’t think I would be able to play baseball at all this year,” said Gerstner.
Gerstner had surgery December 1, 2015, and went through four hard months of physical therapy to get back for as much of the baseball season as possible. Twice a week he had therapy consisting of things from riding the bike to leg lifts for an hour. On other days, he worked on his own for about thirty minutes.
“I always enjoyed going to therapy because I felt I was getting better,” Gerstner said. “I will continue to try and get it stronger and better on my own time while playing baseball.”
Gerstner struggled to get his knee straight. He had to be put in a leg-straightening brace and do special exercises like walking backwards on the treadmill, but to him it was all worth it.
“There were times when it got rough, but I always had that hope that I could still play baseball,” Gerstner said.
The morning of Wednesday, April 6, he had a check-up with his knee doctor to evaluate his progress, and afterwards he walked out of the office cleared to pitch in the Helias vs. Hickman game that evening. Gerstner pitched the final two innings of the game.
“It felt absolutely amazing,” said Gerstner. “I can’t even describe how great it felt to get back out there on the field.”
Gerstner has been playing catch in preparation for the baseball season until he got cleared to play, and recently, he started to practice throwing off the mound. Although he had practiced pitching, Gerstner didn’t face a batter until he stepped into the game on Wednesday, April 6.
“There were definitely nerves, but I was just so ready to get back, that the adrenaline kicked in and a lot of those nerves went away,” Gerstner said.
Gerstner retired all six Hickman batters he faced, earning the relief win in Helias’ 3-2 over Hickman.
“Never give up,” Gerstner said, “because it will always get better.”