During the last ten seconds of a soccer game her sophomore year, Erin slipped and fell.
“I planted my foot and slipped. I was cutting with the ball when my knee went one way and my body the other,” says Erin. “I just knew something terrible had happened.”
Initially, Erin thought she tore her MCL because she did not hear a popping sound that is often associated with an ACL tear. Erin scheduled appointments with a physical therapist as well as with orthopaedic surgeon Dharmesh Vyas, MD PhD, to determine the extent of her injury. After undergoing a clinical exam in Dr. Vyas’ office and subsequent MRI, her fears were confirmed. Aside from tearing her ACL, Erin also had torn her MCL and meniscus. Despite the setback of her knee injury, Dr. Vyas was confident that Erin would be back on the soccer field to play during her junior year.
“Dr. Vyas was fabulous from day one,” says Erin’s mother, Dawn. “He was calm and reassured us that Erin would be okay.”
Two weeks prior to ACL and MCL reconstruction surgery, Erin participated in pre-rehabilitation to build up strength in her right knee.
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Recovery After Injury
Rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction surgery post-injury cannot be rushed, and as eager as Erin was to get back to playing soccer, she listened and followed the individualized recovery program that was created by Dr. Vyas and her physical therapist, Ashley Johnson PT, DPT, CKTP at CRS Eastgate. To get Erin back on to the field, there were three numbers that Dr. Vyas used to describe her recovery timeline: three, six, and nine. At three months, Erin would be allowed to jog again; at six months, she would be fitted for a knee brace to wear while incorporating soccer-related exercises into her rehabilitation program; at nine months, if she followed her recovery program, she would be cleared by Dr. Vyas to return to play.
In the beginning of her physical therapy, Ashley incorporated exercises that helped strengthen Erin’s legs and core to benefit not only her knee but also her balance. She used free weight machines to perform leg presses, leg extensions, and hamstring curls. Ashley also had Erin perform leg lifts on a balance trainer. Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) therapy was used on Erin’s right knee, limiting blood flow to the muscles which allowed her to increase her quadriceps strength by recruiting her body’s own growth factors to help accelerate the process.
Six months post-surgery, Erin, now fitted with a knee brace, was performing soccer-related exercises that incorporated, box jumps, lunges, and cutting drills to help reintroduce her body to the movements of her sport.
“When I first started wearing the brace, I would run a mile at the local track, just so I could get used to wearing it,” remembers Erin. “Dr. Vyas recommended that I wear the brace for a full year after my surgery even while playing in games.”
At nine months, and less than 10 days before the start of high school soccer practices, Erin was cleared by Dr. Vyas to return to practice. Her coach helped ease Erin back into soccer by having her participate as “non- contact” while she began playing with her teammates again.
“My first game back was a little nerve-racking because I tore my ACL cutting during a game, but I knew I was stronger than I was before.”
Ultimately Erin’s junior season of soccer was a memorable one that was highlighted with her high school team clinching the WPIAL title.
“We can’t say enough to everyone who was involved with helping Erin return to soccer,” says Dawn, “It was a great experience for a very unfortunate event.”
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When you are dealing with bone, muscle, or joint pain, it can affect your daily life. UPMC Orthopaedic Care can help. As a national leader in advanced orthopaedic care, we diagnose and treat a full range of musculoskeletal disorders, from the acute and chronic to the common and complex. We provide access to UPMC’s vast network of support services for both surgical and nonsurgical treatments and a full continuum of care. Our multidisciplinary team of experts will work with you to develop the treatment plan that works best for you. Our care team uses the most innovative tools and techniques to provide better outcomes. We also are leaders in research and clinical trials, striving to find better ways to provide our patients care. With locations throughout our communities, you can find a provider near you.