Long Awaited Comeback

May 30, 2017

Nick Hendrix, a pitcher for Duke University, returned to the team after a long absence caused by a concussion and skull fracture that were the result of a ball hitting him in the head.

According to The Herald-Sun, on March 18, 2015, during a game between Duke and Columbia University, a foul ball struck Hendrix in the head, causing him to sit out the rest of the season.

“I kind of saw it but didn’t really react to it,” Hendrix recalled of the ball coming at him. “It got close: ‘Oh wow,’ turned my head and got smoked. Just heard a lot of loud noises ringing in my ear.”

It took two months for Hendrix's concussion to heal, during which time he was unable to hear out of his right ear, and another month for his skull's temporal bone to heal. Hendrix said the experience helped give him perspective.

“It definitely gave me a huge enlightening,” Hendrix said. “When you find it hard to walk or sunlight gives you a headache, it’s crazy how much of those things you take for granted. You really have a new appreciation for people who deal with that, and the protocols put into place become much more important because you know a second one is exponentially worse.”

Hendrix was not only forbidden from playing baseball during his recovery, but was not allowed to watch or read about it. Hendrix said that his teammates helped him through this difficult time, and he even went to watch their games despite being prohibited from doing so.

“I was around the guys as much as I could be, even sometimes when I wasn’t supposed to be. That kept my sanity,” he said. “As an athlete, it’s easy to put your identity [into] how well you perform on the field and the playing time you get and where you are on the depth chart. When you don’t have any of that, it’s a feeling on loneliness, helplessness. It’s kind of like, ‘What do I do?’ ”

Hendrix spent the summer of 2015 preparing to return to the game, but said he initially felt somewhat nervous about doing so,

“I used to be a little gun shy when I first got back,” he said. “I used to have my glove around just in case. As time goes on, it was one of those things where you can’t live your life afraid of anything. If I get hit again, so be it. I’m not going to worry about that or let it keep me from cheering on my teammates.”

This year Hendrix is team captain and confident on the mound. He has become Duke’s all-time leader in appearances as a pitcher with 117.