When a high school athlete has designed their identity around a sport and the potential of a future in collegiate athletics, suffering an ACL tear can feel like the body’s ultimate betrayal. An ACL tear is a traumatic and painful injury that can leave an athlete on the sidelines for up to a year, seriously delaying any progress they might have been making in their sport. But multiple ACL tears, one right after the other, can be devastating for a promising high school athlete not only physically, but emotionally as well.
Just a few decades ago, a child tearing their ACL would lead to years of reduced activity and inability to participate in sports. Surgical reconstruction was not an option, given that the procedure required drilling through the growth plate, and would disrupt future growth in the child’s affected leg.
But in 1976, Lyle Micheli, MD, director of the Sports Medicine Division at Boston Children’s Hospital, pioneered a new growth plate-sparing ACL reconstruction procedure for growing children. Known as physeal-sparing ACL reconstruction, the procedure has been used to reconstruct ACLs in prepubescent kids at Boston Children’s ever since.
This is the procedure that Nate — a 12-year-old star baseball player at the time — underwent in 2013, after tearing his ACL playing football. Rather than rush into an ACL reconstruction surgery in their home state of Maine, Nate’s family researched the best ACL surgeons, and were ultimately referred to Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH, associate director of the Sports Medicine Division at Boston Children’s. …
Julia Marino is always thinking about her story, and it would be hard not too, given how much of an adventure her life has been so far. “Being adopted out of Paraguay to have a normal life in America would’ve been enough of a story itself,” she says. “But I’ve had the chance to live a life beyond what anybody could even dream of.”
As an Olympic skier, Julia has been competing at the top of her sport for almost a decade. In 2014, she reached the pinnacle of snow sports at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. But how she got there – and where she plans on going now – was heavily influenced by a devastating knee injury just a few years before the Olympics.
The dream of playing college soccer was within reach. Emily had been working on her game since she was four years old, and at 16 was now co-captain of both her high school and club teams. Colleges were taking note.
Just three games into club season, Emily was on the field in North Carolina, running back to her net when she tore her left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). She heard her knee pop, and knew immediately what had happened. “I’ve always had a high tolerance for pain, but that definitely raised the bar,” she says. Her mother Lauri can still hear her daughter’s screams from that day as she watched the event unfold from the sidelines.
Six months later, Emily is tackling recovery the same way she tackles life. “Emily is a go-getter,” says Lauri. “In school and in soccer, she works and works and works — she just never stops.” …