When Abbey Olexa collided with another soccer player during a game last May, she pushed through the pain and continued playing. However, after two weeks of rest, the elite soccer striker still had pain.
Abbey’s mother, Elizabeth, took the 14-year-old to orthopedic surgeon Gerardo Goldberger, DO. An MRI found a knee contusion, or bruise, with resulting bruising inside of the bone. She also had patellar tendonitis, which is an injury to the tendon that connects the kneecap to the shin. Dr. Goldberger felt that with physical therapy, Abbey’s injury would heal completely and she could return to her rigorous schedule of soccer, track, and basketball. She was prescribed an anti-inflammatory for pain and referred to physical therapist Marcus C. Ward, PT, DPT at CentraState Rehabilitation Center at Jackson.
Marcus performed a head-to-toe evaluation of how Abbey moved her body to identify areas of injury and weakness. The examination revealed flexibility issues, core and hip weakness, and inward collapse of the knee during various movements.
“Abbey’s injury caused her to develop ways to compensate to avoid pain, which put stress on other joints and soft tissues,” explains Marcus.
He showed her stretching and corrective exercises to improve movement, and used manual therapy instruments to help loosen her muscles. One-on-one therapy ensured that all aspects of her injury and body mechanics were addressed—and strengthened.
“Our goal with all of our patients is simple: You first have to move well before you can move often,” says Marcus.
Abbey soon advanced to higher intensity therapy, including agility exercises, and noticed that she was performing better. In fact, toward the end of her 10 sessions of therapy, she placed first in the 400-meter race and third in long jump at a county track meet—a personal best.
“Marcus made sure that I was up to playing and competing again,” says Abbey, who also qualified to compete in a soccer tournament in Florida against other high-caliber players.
“Her knee has been tested many times since her injury, and we’re thankful that she’s not only healed but is performing at an even higher level since her treatment,” says Elizabeth.
Tips for Preventing Injury
To prevent injury, Marcus recommends that athletes take a proactive approach, including:
- A pre-injury screening before the sports season to identify and address any movement dysfunction/imbalances
- Fundamental strength and agility training to improve reaction time and muscle control
- Adding weight training to workouts—for young female athletes in particular, this helps build bone density, tone muscles, and boost power
If an injury occurs, a physician or physical therapist should complete a full evaluation to develop a custom therapy plan.
“Now, Abbey has the techniques to continue to improve her strength and performance, reducing her risk for future injury,” explains Marcus.