For many young athletes in Texas, there's nothing better than Friday nights. The crowds, the cheers, the electricity in the air – there's just something captivating about high school football games.
For Nick, it was no different. He worked all summer to prepare for his freshman football season, including countless training sessions on the field and in the weight room. That's why when he tore the ACL in his left knee in just the second game of the season, one of his first thoughts was when he'd be able to play again.
"I'm not even sure how it happened," he says. "I think I just took a wrong step and then another player rolled into me."
Fortunately for Nick, expert orthopedic care was just around the corner.
Surgery and specialized therapy help an athlete grow stronger
Nick and his family sought help from John Polousky, M.D., a pediatric and sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine.
After an MRI confirmed the ACL tear, Dr. Polousky informed Nick and his family that surgery was the best option. Less than two weeks later, Nick was back at Children's Health for the surgery.
"Surgery was a little nerve-racking because I didn't know what to expect," says Nick. "But the nurses and doctors were great, and the next thing I knew I was out of surgery and waking up in the recovery room."
Nick was able to return home later that same day. Determined to get stronger as quickly as possible, he started working on a list of simple exercises, and the following week he began physical therapy.
"It was difficult to cope with the injury, but I tried to use it to motivate me," he says.
Nick worked with rehabilitation specialists at Children's Health Andrews Institute to rebuild his knee's strength and reduce the risk of further injuries. By spring, he was back in the weight room and by summer, he was practicing with the team again. He made the Varsity team as a sophomore and his left knee felt better than ever.
A second knee injury brings Nick back to Children's Health Andrews Institute
Nick's sophomore season started off great until a teammate fell and rolled into Nick's right knee at practice. Spurred by a nagging familiar feeling, he headed straight to the Emergency Department at Children's Medical Center Plano.
"The doctors were hopeful it might just be a sprain," says Nick. He went home to ice his knee and rest, but when the pain continued, Nick found himself back in Dr. Polousky's exam room. An MRI showed he had torn his ACL again, this time in his right knee, and he would need surgery yet again.
"Surgery the second time around was a little easier mentally because I knew what to expect," he says.
Nick started physical therapy shortly after surgery again and continues to get stronger each day.
Now six months after surgery, he participates in the Children's Health Andrews Institute Sports Performance Bridge Program, Powered by EXOS, an integrated rehabilitative approach that combines traditional physical therapy with sports performance.
His typical sessions consist of plyometric and agility exercises in addition to traditional strength training to prepare him to get back on the field – all while keeping injury prevention and his well-being as the main focus each step of the way.
"The coaches don't go easy on me," says Nick. "But I know they’re pushing me to be the best I can be."
Nick's dedication has impressed his entire care team. "Nick's hard work and great attitude helped him persevere through two really tough injuries," says Dr. Polousky. "He had some of the worst luck, but one of the best attitudes of any of our athletes. I routinely walk through the physical therapy gym early in the morning, and I felt like I saw Nick there sweating through his rehab just about every day."
Nick hopes to be ready to practice with the team again this summer and plans to play football again his junior year. His dad, Grant, is grateful for the team who is helping his son return to his passion. "As a parent, I can't imagine my child getting better care anywhere," he says. "From the team who admitted him into the ER to the ladies who check him in during physical therapy, it's an amazing group of people."
Between Nick's relentless determination and the support of his team at Children's Health Andrews Institute, there's no question he will be back in action under those Friday Night lights soon, better than ever.
The only pediatric institute of its kind in Texas, the Children's Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine specializes in sports-related injuries and prevention. We provide the full continuum of care from orthopedic surgery and physical therapy to sports performance training and nutrition programs.
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