Making a Play for Healing: HRMC orthopedic services help local athletes recover from sports injuries

Making a Play for Healing: HRMC orthopedic services help local athletes recover from sports injuries

Enjoying sports and recreational activities is an important component of a healthy, physically active lifestyle for adults and kids alike. And while being active is a good thing, injuries can still occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year more than 2.6 million U.S. children age 0-19 are treated for sports or recreational-related injuries. With roughly 1,570 student athletes in Haywood County, we’re no strangers to these ailments.

Sister injuries

Emma and Sarah Clarke are student athletes who never expected to be on crutches at the same time due to injuries. The Tuscola High School athletes damaged their knees within one day of each other in October 2016, when Sarah experienced a hamstring strain and Emma sustained an ACL tear – one of the most common knee injuries.

The sisters were referred to Benjamin Debelak, DO, an orthopedic surgeon with Haywood Regional, for care.

Between track, soccer and competitive skiing, Emma was always using her ACL and hamstring ligaments. A typical ACL procedure takes tissue from the patient’s hamstring and uses it to repair the knee. That was an option that did not appeal to Emma.

“I didn’t want to take part of my hamstring muscle,” Emma says. “I asked Dr. Debelak what other options I had.”

Debelak educated the family on an alternative cadaver ligament repair, which uses donated tissue instead of a person’s own tissue.

“I’m so happy we went with that procedure now,” Emma says. “My knees feel the exact same as prior to the injury.”

Sarah was able to be treated conservatively by working with athletic trainers and attending physical therapy to obtain a full recovery from her hamstring strain. The encouragement she received during treatment helped guide her down the road to healing.

“Dr. Debelak is so funny; he always matches his socks to his tie,” Sarah observes. “And every time we went, it was a ray of sunshine. I wanted to get back into sports so badly! Everyone was always encouraging me, pushing me to get better and telling me ‘You’re almost there.’”

Post-recovery, both sisters hope to play collegiate sports when they graduate high school.

Getting back into full swing

In November 2016, Misty and Kevin Collins of Bethel also utilized Haywood Regional for their son’s orthopedic care. Alex had fractured his right radius bone (one of the two large bones of the forearm) for the second time. It was determined he would need surgery to correct the break.

“I had just made the basketball team at Bethel and three days later I broke my arm, so it was pretty disappointing,” Alex says. 

In May, after his second surgery, which removed the plate and six screws from his arm, Alex received physical therapy at Haywood Regional and was soon cleared to play sports again. Once again, the expert, helpful staff at Haywood Regional played a big role in Alex’s recovery.

“Everyone was very thorough,” Misty says. “So many people came to make sure our questions were answered and we were comfortable. And it was quick, from the waiting room wait times to getting his surgery scheduled. I hope we don’t have to ever come back for an injury, but if we did, I’d come back here.” 

Alex is an incoming freshman at Pisgah and plays multiple positions on the baseball team. He’s feeling pretty confident about his arm these days.

“It feels great and I’m ready to get back into the full swing of things,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to being up at Pisgah this year, too.”

The Haywood Regional Sports Medicine team has three board-certified orthopedic surgeons: Paul J. Cutting, MD; Benjamin Debelak, DO; and Gerald W. King, MD. All have different areas of specialty and training. Services include hip and knee replacements, hand surgery, sports medicine, surgical reconstruction, trauma, foot and ankle injuries, pediatric fractures and general orthopedics. 

What You Can Do to Help Prevent Injuries

  • Gear up; be sure your student athlete is using the right protective gear for their activity, such as helmets, wrist guards, knee pads, etc.

  • Use the right stuff; make sure equipment is in good condition, fits appropriately and is worn correctly

  • Get an action plan in place; be sure your child’s sports program or school has an action plan that includes information on how to teach athletes ways to reduce the risk of concussion and other injuries

  • Pay attention to temperature; allow time for child athletes to gradually adjust to hot or humid environments to prevent heat-related injuries or illness. Parents and coaches should pay close attention to ensure that players are hydrated and appropriately dressed

  • Be a good model; communicate positive safety messages and serve as a model of safe behavior, including wearing a helmet and following the rules.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

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