When your child plays a sport, it’s often hard to tell where everyday aches and pains end and a potentially serious injury begins. Bumps and bruises are anything but rare in contact sports, and muscle soreness can be a common complaint for any young athlete — especially given the rigor of youth athletics these days. So how do you know when your child’s hip pain is due to an actual injury?
“The crux of Olympic competition is to do everything you can to be the first one to cross the finish line,” says Abbey D’Agostino. But that’s not what Abbey did during the 5,000-meter qualifying heats in the 2016 summer games.
Abbey had trained for her Olympic moment for years, adhering to the rigid 24/7 lifestyle of an elite athlete since graduating from Dartmouth College and signing to run professionally with New Balance.
Abbey’s Olympic moment came unexpectedly when she and New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin collided and tumbled to the ground.
What happened at the Olympics is an example we should be talking about in youth sports. It’s not just about achievement. It’s about sportsmanship.
Abbey ignored her training, her coach’s advice, her dreams.
She stopped and extended her hand to Nikki, and the pair hobbled through the final mile of the event side by side.
“What happened at the Olympics is an example we should be talking about in youth sports. It’s not just about achievement. It’s about sportsmanship,” says Dr. Mininder Kocher, associate director of Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine.
There were a few things Abbey didn’t know during that fateful mile. She would be diagnosed with a devastating injury: a complete tear of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a meniscus tear and a strained medial collateral ligament. She and Nikki would be awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for Olympic spirit. And her team would expand.
Physical therapist Carl Gustafson would join Team Abbey, along with her coach Mark Coogan and Kocher, a world-renowned knee surgeon. …
Brian Burke, a rising senior at Curry College, has been playing baseball for as long as he can remember. He loves his sport and hopes to have a shot at the pros after graduation.
It’s a far cry from where he thought he would be four years ago when he had surgery for osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in his right knee. With OCD, blood supply to the knee is restricted, damaging the bone and cartilage, and sometimes causing a piece of bone and cartilage to separate. The condition can increase an athlete’s risk for early arthritis.
“When I first heard that I needed surgery, I though my career was over,” recalls Brian.
It’s important to trust the rehabilitation process, and do your exercises every day. I felt 1,000 times better than before surgery.
His orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mininder Kocher, associate director of the Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine Division, reassured Brian that he would be able to return to his beloved sport … as long as he committed to rehabilitation.
“What Brian had is catcher’s knee, a condition that hasn’t been described before,” says Kocher.
What is catcher’s knee?
Athletes, especially growing athletes who specialize in one position at a young age, are at risk for overuse conditions, explains Kocher.
It’s fairly common for kids to become catching specialists by age 10. They’re catching all of the time, which means they’re sitting in a hyperflexed position and then standing up rapidly to throw. “Catchers are doing this through every game and practice,” says Kocher.
With OCD, the bone and articular cartilage that protects the end of the bone separate; it hampers the normal, fluid functioning of the knee and can cause pain and swelling. “We’re seeing the condition in catchers. But it manifests differently than typical OCD. It tends to be more extensive and advanced, and it involves the back of the knee,” says Kocher. …
Ashley never planned to be a Red Sox fan either. But during baseball season, the Philadelphia native shuns Phillies wear, donning Red Sox garb instead. And when basketball season rolls around, she’s often sporting Celtics’ green rather than 76ers’ blue.
We knew right away. Ashley turned to me and said, ‘Mom, he’s the one who will fix me.’
“We call her the Philly traitor,” jokes Ashley’s mom Loreen, a nurse at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.
Nicknames aside, Loreen and her husband Robert are fine with their daughter’s affinity for Boston.
After all, it’s the city where Ashley regained her mobility.
Ashley’s health challenges started when she was 5. Her knee would click and lock.
Although Ashley always seemed to be smiling, the pain often kept her from running or playing, says Loreen.
Loreen took Ashley to her pediatrician and then a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. An MRI showed a discoid meniscus. The condition, characterized by an abnormally shaped meniscus, can cause knee pain or knee popping. Typically, children with these symptoms can be treated via arthroscopic surgery.
Ashley had her first surgery to reshape and repair her meniscus at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“She did OK and stuck with her physical therapy, but she plateaued to a point that left her with ongoing pain and difficulty walking,” says Loreen.
Over the next two years, Ashley had two more knee surgeries at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children to repair her meniscus.
Each time, the result was the same. She’d get better, but the pain would persist, and walking grew increasingly challenging. She needed crutches, a walker and then a wheelchair.