Stories about: Sports Medicine

Olympian D’Agostino shares 3 lessons after ACL injury

ACL 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.

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Play ball: Back on the field after catcher’s knee

catchers kneeBrian 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.

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“We never thought we’d run again.”

sports medicineFor five years Hope Prockop, a competitive women’s squash player, battled chronic foot pain, while her daughter Lyle struggled with excruciating back pain. “It was really stressful to cope with both conditions,” says Hope. “I wondered if I would ever reach my goals.”

Mother and daughter found the care and support they needed at Boston Children’s Hospital, where a team of doctors got the pair running and helped Hope reach the pinnacle of her sport. She represented the U.S. on the Team USA national women’s squash team in 2006, 2008 and 2010 and won two U.S. Masters national titles and the Allam British Open 45+ Squash Championships in 2015.

Head-to-toe care

In 2010, Hope was questioning her body and her athletic goals. She had chronic foot pain and had consulted podiatrists throughout Boston. Finally, she followed a friend’s advice and made an appointment with Dr. Thomas Vorderer, a podiatrist in Boston Children’s Sports Medicine.

“His commitment to keeping athletes in the game really resonated with me.”

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After competitive dreams end, gymnast finds a new beginning

Plica syndrome
Colby at the beach

Colby Parsons fell in love with gymnastics at age 4. “I loved the communal aspect of my team and the focus on mastery in gymnastics,” recalls Colby, now 19 and a Brown University freshman. As a young boy, Colby dreamed of competing as an all-around gymnast in Nationals. But sometimes life plans don’t go according to plan.

As a young teen, Colby was ranked fifth in Massachusetts, but he was in constant pain. His parents thought his knee pain might be caused by growing pains or an overuse injury. His coach suspected shin splints.

“His pediatrician said, ‘Give it a few weeks. Take a break from gymnastics,’” recalls his mother Nancy.

But kids like Colby really don’t take a break.

Despite the pain, Colby continued to compete and reached the state championships in 2012. During a run to the vault, his knee pain became so intense he couldn’t complete the run.

“He had to scratch. It was devastating,” says Nancy.

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