It’s a pain in the butt to have a pain in your toe.
Over the course of two NLL seasons, the Georgia Swarm’s Jeff Henrick broke his 5th metatarsal (the long bone on the outside of the foot that connects to the pinky toe) three times. Now, heading into his 3rd pro season with a brand new contract, Henrick is on a slow road to recovery that should lead him to have his most productive season yet.
Henrick was taken in the 1st round (8th overall) in the 2020 NLL Entry Draft. He was the 2nd defenseman taken in that draft – Reid Bowering was selected 2nd overall by the Vancouver Warriors. Henrick proved his worth over the years and showed himself to be a dogged, multi- faceted defender.
While at The Ohio State University, Henrick etched his name in the history books, becoming one of the best to cause turnovers in the game and one of the top two-way defenders at the collegiate level. The same could be said during his time with the Jr. A Orangeville Northmen in the Ontario Junior Lacrosse League (OJLL), or with the New Westminster Salmonbellies in the Western Lacrosse Association (WLA), or at The Hill Academy.
He credits his coaches at these institutions, including Patrick and Brodie Merrill (The Hill Academy) and Nick Myers and Travis Crane (The Ohio State University), for much of his growth over the years.
Unfortunately, Henrick was hit with the injury bug once he made it to the top of the mountain to play in the NLL.
Before stepping foot on the floor in his rookie season, Henrick broke his 5th metatarsal for the first time. The Swarm were very attentive to Henrick and quick to get him the medical care he needed to make a speedy recovery. Maybe too speedy.
Following a rookie season in which Henrick played in 15 games, the lefty defender posted 54 loose balls, 4 caused turnovers, and 5 blocked shots. However, during the summer months leading up to the 2022-23 season, Henrick reaggravated his 5th metatarsal, forcing him back into recovery. Several months later, Henrick was again on his feet, but not for long. After only playing one game during the 2022-23 season, the Orangeville native would be out of play again with the same injury.
This reoccurring injury has tried to spoil Henrick’s NLL journey, but his teammates and many others involved with the Swarm have kept his spirits high. Henrick is poised to be ready for this coming NLL season after his early spring surgery a few months ago with a new approach to go slower with this recovery process.
“It’s been frustrating, but knowing that my teammates and the organization have my back is reassuring,” Henrick said. “I’m just ready to get a consistent season in. I’m feeling good about the surgery I just had three months ago. It’s crazy to think I’ve had three surgeries on my foot in about a year.”
The strategy in his latest recovery was to avoid most unnecessary movements and exercises for at least the first three months. That period has now passed. With the NLL season a little over four months away, Henrick is beginning to cautiously, yet eagerly, work on forward movements, which will then slowly transition to working on lateral movements.
When dealing with an injury like Henrick has, you need to be careful, even when it feels like there are no issues. Stopping and starting on a dime, changing direction etc. can all aggravate the freshly healed area. Especially when considering the goals Henpeck has for himself over the offseason, when returning to the floor, he understands that he can’t push himself too hard.
“During this offseason, I want to get a lot stronger and faster, too,” Henrick said. “Those are two goals in particular that I have.”
He has come up with this plan because he doesn’t want to miss any more time to grow with the budding Swarm defensemen on the roster. Adam Wiedemann, TJ Comizio, Jerry Staats, Ethan Riggs, and Jordan Trottier are all 27 years old or younger. Henrick turns 26 during the 2023-24 training camp.
Last season while Henrick was sidelined, we saw how the defense, transition game, and goaltending were able to play at an elite level in the 2nd half of the season. After an 0-7 start where the team was allowing 14 goals per game, over their final 11 regular season games, that number dropped all the way down to 9.9 goals per game. Many of the bright stars on the backend have been working together over the past two seasons.
Henrick explained how, even though he’s been M.I.A for many games in that period, he enjoyed being part of that core, and that that was factored into his decision to sign a two-year deal back on June 21st.
“We are pretty young,” Henrick said. “It’s awesome that we were able to find our stride and find our identity [last season]. That starts with having some veterans on our side like Jordan MacIntosh leading the way and showing the younger guys like myself how things work at the next level.”
“Obviously, being able to get to know the guys on the team, even though I’ve been away a little bit, I really enjoy spending time with them. So, I was super excited to sign that contract and get those two years locked in.”
Beyond the men he goes to battle with on the floor, his current Swarm coaches, Ed Comeau and Sean Ferris, are helping him continue to grow as a man and a player, just like Myers, Crane, and the Merrills.
“I’ve been super grateful to learn from some of the best,” Henrick said. “At the [NLL-level], I get to continue to learn from some of the best with Eddie [Ed] Comeau and Sean Ferris. I get to continue to grow as a player and keep trying to achieve the goals I’m trying to achieve.”
Henrick has been broken since joining the NLL, but he is ready to pick up the pieces and put in the work to no longer live in pain. For Henrick, there is no better place for that to happen than with the men on the Georgia Swarm.
By Adam Levi