Deryk Jones Jr., 22, is passionate about soccer — a sport he has played since age 4. “My goal is someday to play soccer at the very highest level,” he says.

Double surgeries to reconstruct the ACLs in both knees could have jeopardized his career plans. But thanks to the expertise of the orthopaedic surgeons and physical therapists at UPMC Sports Medicine in Pittsburgh, Deryk returned to the soccer pitch.

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The Challenge: Sidelined by Injury

Soccer has been the focus of Deryk Jones’ life since he began playing the sport at age 4. After competing with elite club teams in his home state of Louisiana and Chicago, Deryk was invited to join U.S. Youth Soccer’s Olympic Development Program. He finished high school in Minnesota at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School — a highly regarded soccer program affiliated with Major League Soccer.

After graduating in 2020, he accepted a scholarship from the University of Portland to play for the Pilots, its NCAA Division I soccer team. Deryk planned to fine-tune his soccer skills playing at the college level while earning a college degree. His dream is to eventually play professional soccer.

Those plans appeared to be in doubt when Deryk tore the ACL and meniscus in his right knee during a training session on Jan. 21, 2021.

The Path to UPMC: Father Knows Best

Deryk immediately called one of his biggest supporters — his dad, Deryk Jones Sr., MD, a renowned and respected orthopaedic surgeon. “My dad played soccer, so he understands what it takes to become the best,” says Deryk Jr. He also knows that an ACL injury can end a footballer’s career before it begins.

Dr. Jones is head of sports medicine at the Ochsner Andrews Sports Medicine Institute in New Orleans and a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. He completed his orthopaedic training in Pittsburgh under the late Freddie Fu, MD, founder of UPMC’s internationally acclaimed sports medicine program.

“My dad called a colleague at UPMC, who said Dr. Musahl was the best at ACL reconstruction,” says Deryk. Volker Musahl, MD, now medical director of UPMC Sports Medicine, also trained under Dr. Fu.

“The individualized ACL procedure we use on our patients was developed by Dr. Fu,” says Dr. Musahl. “In soccer – and many other sports – we have successfully developed a technique where we use a small strip of the patient’s quadriceps tendon to fashion a strong, new ACL.”

Just 10 days after the injury, Dr. Musahl successfully reconstructed Deryk’s ACL and repaired the torn meniscus using arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure that enables doctors to work through small incisions in the knee. For patients, it offers faster healing, and less scarring and blood loss. Deryk followed a months-long intense rehabilitation protocol crafted by Dr. Musahl and UPMC Rehabilitation Institute physical therapists. He returned to practice with the Pilots on a limited basis.

A Return Trip to UPMC

A year later — almost to the day — Deryk felt a pop in his other knee while playing in a Pilots squad game. “I was pretty upset, so I called my dad,” says Deryk. “He said, ‘Buddy, I think it’s your ACL.’”

They were soon back in Pittsburgh where Dr. Musahl used the same arthroscopic procedure to successfully reconstruct the ACL in Deryk’s left knee. “The nurses actually remembered me from a year before,” says Deryk.

Two days after surgery, Deryk flew home to Louisiana to recover. Once again, the physical therapists at UPMC Sports Medicine and his physical therapist in Portland created a rehabilitation program designed to get him back to playing soccer safely. At home, he followed the UPMC team’s rigorous protocol under his father’s watchful eye. Dr. Musahl and the team at UPMC Sports Medicine monitored his recovery and rehab progress via telemedicine.

“That team at UPMC was awesome,” he says. “I had a long, hard road ahead of me, but they made sure I knew what I had to do. And I was ready.”

The Outcome: Back on the Pitch

Deryk is back to practice with his teammates at the University of Portland. Because of back-to-back knee injuries, Deryk had been redshirted up until 2023. With three years of eligibility left, he plans to practice and play with the California State University Northridge Matadors while pursuing graduate studies.

After the second surgery, many people asked Deryk if he would quit playing soccer. “It was harder the second time, and I had my doubts,” he says. “I had the best care at UPMC, and I’m not going to stop playing because that’s what I love to do.”

For more information about UPMC Sports Medicine and its ACL Program, or to schedule an appointment, please call 1-855-937-7678.

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.