Our athlete comeback story this month focuses on Riley, an athletic 19-year-old who has had a long, successful history with sports. Since she was 10, Riley has enjoyed playing soccer and running track on her school teams. She has also competed on a club soccer team, Lake Hills, for eight years. Unfortunately, at a soccer game one autumn afternoon of Riley’s junior year in high school, she was running and she cut and turned quickly, collapsing in shock and excruciating pain. Riley had torn the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in her right knee.
She was evaluated by Dr. Susan R. Cero MD, who recommended ACL reconstruction using the patella tendon because Riley is a sprinter. Although Riley was nervous about it being a slightly more painful surgery with a larger scar, she knew it would be worth it to save her running career.
“Riley was one of the best patients an orthopedic surgeon could ask for, she was strong going into the operation and was already planning her athletic comeback! She was motivated and had a terrific family to help her after the operation,” said Dr. Cero. “When recommending an ACL reconstruction, I take into account the patient’s activity and competition expectations. I carefully discuss the graft choices, there are pros and cons and tradeoffs to each. The hamstring tendons are critical to a fast start off the blocks in track, and I knew Riley had aspirations of competing at a national level, we decided to spare her hamstrings and use her part of her patella tendon. Microseconds matter to a sprinter. These considerations, including the scar cosmetics and the pain and risks of obtaining the various grafts come into play differently with each patient. I am so pleased with Riley’s outcome and credit her with the hard work she put in.”
Riley had never broken a bone or had any sort of serious injury before this; naturally, she did not know how hard it is to recover from a big injury like this. She was on crutches and unable to drive for weeks, and although intellectually, she had prepared for this, it is a difficult adjustment for anyone to make. Riley’s right leg atrophied (which is expected after an ACL tear,) so she also had to relearn how to do simple things, like stepping down stairs, squatting and even balancing. She attended physical therapy twice a week and did exercises on her own every night.
Even with her good attitude and her excellent progress in rehab, the ACL tear came at an inconvenient time, a week before soccer playoffs. Her team had made it for the first time since the 1980s – and Riley had to watch from the sidelines. Riley also wasn’t able to play for her club soccer team for an entire year, because ACL reconstructions take at least 8 months of recovery before they are strong enough to take the rigors of any sport with quick turns and twisting motion. Missing out on so much soccer, reinforced Riley’s determination to get back to running track just a short four months after her operation.
With a bit of hesitation, but support from her physical therapist and Dr. Cero, Riley worked tirelessly with both of them and her track coach to get in tip-top shape. She managed to make it to the state meet as part of Interlake High School’s 4×100 Varsity relay team, knee brace and all.
Riley is now completely healed and experiencing very few problems with her knee, and like a true comeback story, Riley experienced the best season in her athletic career after her injury.
In her senior year of high school, Riley went to state for the 100-meter dash and the 4×400 meter relay, placing fourth in the 100-meter dash and breaking Interlake High School’s record with a time of 12.20! She also was able to return to her high school and club soccer teams for her senior year. Most recently, Riley competed in the Junior Olympics this past summer and qualified for the National Junior Olympic meet. We are so proud of everything Riley has accomplished before, during and after her injury and we are thrilled to have been a part of her comeback story.
If you experience an injury and want to get back to your healthy, active lifestyle, please contact us today at 425.656.5060 to schedule an appointment with our POA orthopedic doctors at our one of our orthopedic clinics.