Pain Free, and Having a Ball
Bernie Walter knows when to call a hit and run or a double steal. In fact, he knows just about everything there is to know about baseball. He also knows about hip replacement and will give a patient’s perspective on the surgery at an event on November 29.
Mr. Walter has won a record-setting nine Maryland state baseball championships and has coached 55 major leaguers, including Denny Neagle, Mike Mussina, and John Smoltz. He’s been named national coach of the year four times by different organizations and won six national championships for the summer league. Pictured here with Mr. Walter are (L) Tico Mendoza, 15, a junior infielder and pitcher for the Arundel High School Wildcats and Chris Wurthrich, a sophomore first baseman and pitcher at Catonsville Community College.
A 1961-63 varsity shortstop for the University of Maryland, he’s coached high school players from all over Maryland, receiving accolade after accolade. Currently the athletic director at Arundel High School in Gambrills, he’ll be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association’s National Hall of Fame in Louisville, Kentucky, in January.
The revered coach also teaches sports medicine and prides himself on instructing high school athletes about proper training and nutrition. Two years ago, when he developed a sharp pain in his hip, he attributed it to a pulled or torn muscle. But unlike most muscular injuries, it didn’t go away. Instead, it got worse. “But I was busy, and didn’t want to take the time to have it looked at. Eventually, I went to my primary care physician who casually mentioned the word ‘arthritis’ and said I should get on the radar screen of an orthopedic surgeon.”
Soon after, he struck up a conversation with Broadneck High School’s team doctor, orthopedist Marc Brassard, M.D., during a game, and before long was in his office. Diagnostic tests revealed arthritis and bone spurs. Dr. Brassard recommended glucosamine and physical therapy, but told Coach Walter that hip replacement would probably be down the road. “So I asked him, ‘When will that be?’ and he said,‘I won’t tell you. You’ll tell me.’” Mr. Walter said the therapy worked really well for about six months, but unexpectedly, the unbearable pain returned and Dr. Brassard’s prediction came true.
He made the call to Dr. Brassard and this July had a total hip replacement. Mr. Walter said the surgery was a breeze. “Before the surgery, the pain was enough to knock you over, but when I woke up it was completely gone. Zero pain. Amazing.”
Because he’s in good shape and understands the power of exercise after surgery, recovery was fairly quick for him. It had to be. Two weeks after surgery, he flew to Florida to coach his summer league team in a championship game. He used a walker on the field, but by early August, was using a cane and ready to start taking mile long walks. He has continued his physical therapy and expects to be back to normal by fall.
Dr. Brassard said Mr. Walter returned to his demanding baseball schedule “at an accelerated pace” because he was fully engaged—from pre-operative to post-operative exercise and physical therapy. In looking back at his experience, Mr. Walter said,“I just wish I hadn’t waited so long.”