Sewickley native helps athletes recover from injuries
By Joanne Barron
Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:01 p.m.Updated 21 hours ago
If it wasn't for Michael Waller and “rolfing,” former Major League Baseball player Sean Casey never might have been able to play in the World Series.
Now a broadcaster and commentator for the MLB Network, Casey said rolfing, a form of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues, helped him recover after several injuries.
While playing first base for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the second week of the season in 2006, Casey fractured his spine after a Chicago Cubs base runner collided with him.
Casey was in the hospital for 11 days, and Pirates team doctors said he would be out for at least four months. A friend suggested he contact Waller and try rolfing.
“I had to be helped up onto the table by my wife. He worked on me for three hours the first time, and after that, I didn't have any pain,” he said.
Waller, who was born and raised in Sewickley, treated Casey eight times in four weeks, and six weeks after his injury, he was back in the game.
That same year, while Casey was playing with the Detroit Tigers, he injured his leg. Doctors told him he wouldn't be able to play for at least three weeks. Until that point, Casey had been playing well and his team was headed to the playoffs.
After Waller “rolfed” him again, Casey played in the World Series and earned a .432 batting average and hit two home runs, although Detroit didn't win, Waller said.
Although Casey retired at the end of the 2008 season, he said when Waller is in town, he always makes an appointment for a rolfing session for himself; his wife, Mandy; and their children to keep their bodies in alignment.
He said he has referred many friends and family members to Waller, and they avoided surgery, physical therapy, doctors and drugs.
“I tell them to let Michael work on them one time and it will change their lives,” Casey said.
Named after its founder, the late Dr. Ida P. Rolf, Rolfing Structural Integration is practiced in 38 countries.
Rolf theorized that “bound-up” fasciae — connective tissues that Waller compares to the white coating on raw chicken — often restrict opposing muscles from functioning in concert. She aimed to separate the fibers of bound-up fasciae manually to loosen them and allow effective movement.
Manipulation is believed to yield therapeutic benefits, including helping clients to stand straighter, gain height and move better through the correction of soft-tissue fixations.
Waller, a 1977 Sewickley Academy graduate, said the technique helps to break up holding patterns where the muscles get stuck or bunched up.
He said it can release traumas that people have held in their bodies for years after an injury.
His only equipment is a portable table. There are no electric stimulators.
Waller, who lives in Columbus, Ohio, frequently travels to provide rolfing treatments in 17 different cities, including areas of New York, Maryland, West Virginia and Ohio.
He often comes to the Sewickley area, where he previously had an office in the former Open Mind bookstore to treat clients throughout the Pittsburgh area, such as Cat Capuli, 51, of Moon Township.
Capuli said Waller has helped her after skiing injuries and she now can hike, do yoga and exercise on the elliptical machine.
Waller, son of the late Carole Taylor and Edward Waller of Sewickley, said he knows what it's like “to live in a body that doesn't work.”
He said he got relief from rolfing from his own injuries playing hockey and lacrosse in high school and college.
Over 24 years, he said, he has treated about 40,000 patients and has put in about 50,000 hours of practice.
He charges from $125 to $150 per session depending on the amount of travel, and sessions last from 90 minutes to two hours.
Rolfers often prescribe to a sequence of 10 to 12 sessions.
Waller said in addition to Casey, he has worked on several other MLB baseball players, including Gary Sheffield, Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew, and other professional athletes.
Waller said he had never heard of rolfing until he met Carol Walsh, who owns a practice in Pittsburgh's Shadyside neighborhood and treated him for his injuries.
He then became her apprentice and became a certified rolfer in 1999 and a certified advanced rolfer in 2009 from the Rolf Institute in Colorado.
For more information, visit www.prorolfing.com.
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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