Shapiro’s rehab to end in time for baseball season and collegiate career

Tommy Marquardt and Jonas Evans

Playing two sports always comes with the risk that a player could get injured and jeopardize their season in their other sport. Senior basketball and baseball player Joe Shapiro saw those fears come to fruition on Dec. 13, 2019, when he was carted off the basketball court and towards the hospital with a leg injury.

Shapiro’s rehabilitation process has been intensive, but so far it has been successful, according to Joe’s mom Nancy Shapiro. The injury itself required surgery in the days after the fracture occurred, Joe said, but he kicked off his rehab process with high hopes.

“My injury was a [tibia/fibula] fracture of the left leg, right around in the middle of the bone,” Joe said. “I went into emergency surgery Saturday morning after the game Friday night and they put a titanium rod down through the top of the knee and then they screwed it in. This rod is permanent and it’s allowing me to walk and put weight on the leg even though the bone is not fully healed yet.”

The recovery from such an injury was a tough ordeal, but Nancy said Joe has risen to the challenge. Joe’s success has been in part thanks to the outpouring of support from the community, according to Nancy.

“His recovery has gone very well, so far,” Nancy said. “He’s actually been cleared for all [physical education] activities, and he’s even been cleared to start running and jumping and doing anything he can do comfortably. So, we could not be more happy with how quick his recovery has been.”

Since the surgery, Joe has been working constantly in physical therapy to get his leg back to normal. His timeline has been sped up in hopes of getting on the mound for the first game of the Titans baseball season, Joe said.

“I’ve started physical therapy,” Joe said. “I’m doing Blood Flow Restriction, so they put pressure around your leg and cut off most of the circulation. Then, you do light workouts and your leg gets tired right away, so it helps build muscle really really quick.”

Steve Stanicek, varsity baseball head coach, has coached Joe over the course of his career on the baseball team. The team meets before the season starts in non-mandatory morning practices that Stanicek oversees. Stanicek, who worked with Joe last year, continues to see off-season commitment from the pitcher.

“He has a set protocol of what he’s allowed to do,” Stanicek said. “He has been to a couple of open gyms, doing what his therapist told him to do. Physically, [Joe’s recovery] has been unbelievable.”

Thanks to his hard work on his rehab, Joe was able to sub in near the end of his senior day basketball game against Hinsdale Central on Feb. 8. Though he was still limited physically, Shapiro appreciated being able to play at all.

“It was an emotional moment to be able to check into the game,” Joe said. “The support throughout the process has been unbelievable and I’m so thankful for everyone. It shows I am getting closer to being healthy but still have a lot of work to do.”

Only a month prior to his injury, Joe had committed to Western Michigan University to play Division I baseball in the Mid-American Conference where they finished 7th last year. The left-handed pitcher gained attention for fastballs topping off over 80 mph. A key part of his search for possible schools was commitment to him as a player even after a possible injury. Western Michigan was able to deliver on that promise.

“Before I even committed there, the hypothetical question was, ‘If I was to get hurt, would they still honor the scholarship?’” Joe said.  “[After the injury], I called them and they said not to worry.”