Julia Schleuss was a trailblazer when she joined the boys’ wrestling team at Wall Township High School. However, when she broke her collarbone during a match this winter, she was concerned that she might never wrestle again.
Julia, 16, decided in eighth grade that she wanted to join the boys’ wrestling team because of the team’s workout regimen; being the only girl on the team made the decision even more attractive. She was wrestling a heavier female opponent during a scrimmage in December when she heard a snap―and then she couldn’t lift her elbow. She was taken by ambulance to CentraState’s Emergency Department. Following a physical exam and a round of X-rays, clinicians determined that the simple fracture would heal on its own.
Several days later when Julia was still in severe pain, her mother, Cheryl, made an appointment with Stacey Gallacher, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon on staff at CentraState. Follow-up X-rays revealed that the bones had moved and were no longer in the proper position to heal naturally.
Surgery Provides a Solution
“Physicians determine the severity of a fracture by the shape of the break,” Dr. Gallacher explains. “Julia had a closed fracture, meaning that it didn’t come through the skin, but the ends of her bones weren’t lined up properly and had spread apart.”
To fix the fracture, Dr. Gallacher performed an open reduction internal fixation procedure the next day. This technique realigns the bones surgically, and then uses a plate and screws to hold the bones in place so they can heal.
“Not all bones require the same treatment, so we look at every case individually,” explains Dr. Gallacher. “We consider how the bone was broken, how active and healthy the patient is, and if he or she is fit enough to handle surgery. The benefits must outweigh the risks.”
“I was a little foggy when I woke up after surgery, but I was in a lot less pain,” Julia recalls. She went back to school about a week later.
Julia had physical therapy twice a week for two months. She was cleared to run track in early February, and then full-contact sports, including wrestling, in early April. She plans to work hard this summer to make the girls’ state wrestling tournament.
“I’m motivated to get back to wrestling,” says Julia, who also plays soccer. “I found a great surgeon, and I feel stronger than ever.”