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From a Season-Ending Injury to Earning her Varsity Letter: Carli’s Success Story

By, Allison R. Weder

“They did not let her give up. They helped her build confidence and learn to trust her knee again.” – Brooke, Carli’s Mom

Carli was thirteen when an injury stopped her from doing one of the things she loved most. “I tore my ACL playing basketball. I got taken out of the game and I wasn’t able to play the rest of the year. I was definitely sad. It was very disappointing not being able to finish the rest of the season.” Carli would need surgery to repair a complete tear in her ACL but not before she went to physical therapy to build the strength in her leg for a smoother recovery, post-surgery.

Carli and her mother, Brooke, chose Phoenix Physical Therapy in Salem, Ohio for her prehabilitation. Simply put, prehabilitation is rehabilitation before surgery to make you the strongest and healthiest you can be when you head into the operating room. Studies show prehab helps patients feel better while improving function, prepares them for the physical challenges faced following treatment, and improves their psychological outcomes by setting their minds at ease by providing knowledge of what to expect. Carli remembers going to see Clinic Director, Michael Chaffee, PT, MDT, COMT shortly after she was injured. “They did a lot of measuring and a couple small stretches because you need strength in your leg for a better recovery after surgery. They worked on building the muscles in my legs.”

After her prehabilitation sessions, Carli had the surgery. “They had to do a total reconstruction. I had a complete tear. They took part of my quad to fill it in. I definitely was still in a lot of pain, and it lasted for a very long time.” Carli was back with the Phoenix PT-Salem team less than two days after her surgery. “When I went in I was in a lot of pain, so they had to take their time. They did a little bit of bending and some exercises, but it was really hard because it was so soon after. I was very stressed out.” Carli was worried she would not be able to play basketball again, but things began to look up when she was able to do more the following week. “The next week we were bending my leg further back than the first week. I had to learn how to walk again. I would walk in the parallel bars in a brace. I would ride the bike and I’d have to go back and forth until I could go all the way around. I would pull my leg to my chest. I did straight leg lifts to try and keep my quad straight and keep my leg straight.”

Carli was making progress, and began to trust Michael and her other therapist, Danny Sawman, PTA. “They were really good to work with they definitely put in a lot of time to help me recover. Every time I walked in the door they asked my pain level, one to ten. If it was higher, we wouldn’t do as much stuff as if it was a lower number.” Carli felt comfortable talking to her team about her pain levels, and soon, it became clear, something was not right. Carli’s mother was concerned. “I had taken her to the doctor two times because she was having pain and swelling and they kind of brushed us off. And Michael is actually the one that reached out to the doctor and said, ‘look there is something is wrong.’ Then they got us in and had an MRI and that’s when we found the scar tissue.” Carli had scar tissue build up under her patella. It is not uncommon and usually requires another surgery to remove it. Brooke is grateful for Michael’s determination to find the reason behind Carli’s pain. “She only had the second surgery because of him.”

After the surgery to remove the scar tissue, Carli returned to her physical therapy team to continue her rehabilitation. She did not skip a beat. “We were able to do most of the stuff that I did (before surgery). It was just a little setback.” The progress continued and Carli’s goal to play basketball again began to come into focus. She was more determined than ever to recover, and her therapists were there to encourage her during every therapy session. “They would tell me that I could do it, and if I was giving up and not able to do the exercise they would come over and help me. They would always tell me, ‘You want to get back to basketball and if you don’t do this, then you won’t be able to reach your goal.’ So, they would help me make sure I was always determined to finish what I started.” Brooke was impressed with how Michael and Danny helped her physically and mentally. “It was nice because “Mom” pushing is a little bit different than someone else pushing. And they did not let her give up. They helped her build confidence and learn to trust her knee again. They pushed her through that little mental block she had.”

Carli reached her goals and was able to return to basketball. “I started playing basketball at the end of summer. I was also doing band at the time. We’ve been playing lots of games. We had our first win too. I’m also playing soccer again. So, I’ve definitely come a long way from where I started.” Brooke is happy to see her once again, compete in the sport she loves. “As basketball continues, she is trusting her knee more and more and her confidence is going up even more. They taught her how she is supposed to land when she’s running and how she is supposed to land when she’s jumping; things to prevent further injury. They’ve taught her proper mechanics of doing pretty much everything she is doing in sports.”

Brooke is grateful for the Phoenix PT-Salem team. “They became our family after almost a year of therapy three days a week. And (Patient Care Coordinator, Samantha Sekola) was able to schedule two months in advance. We kept the same schedule for the most part. She just knew what we needed and make it work for us.” Michael is impressed with everything Carli was able to accomplish during her recovery. “Carli is a mature, kindhearted young lady. She carries a busy academic schedule, is involved with various sports, and is a great help pitching in to help her family.”

Carli is looking to the future now and is thankful for the physical therapy team that helped her get back to doing what she loves to do, even earning her varsity letter. “I appreciate them and I’m very glad they pushed me. If they didn’t I wouldn’t be where I am today. They will do the same for others.”