The beginning of the professional lacrosse season Saturday brings the return of Rochester Knighthawks forwards John Grant and Scott Evans. They are back on the turf after career-saving ACL reconstruction and rehabilitation by University of Rochester Medical Center doctors and therapists over the past 12 months.
University of Rochester Medical Center surgeon Ilya Voloshin, M.D., reconstructed the players’ anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) in January 2009 and guided them both through months of physical therapy and rehabilitation.
“Their surgeries were challenging but successful and now they’ve completed the rehabilitation which has helped build strength in their legs and gain confidence in their athletic performance. They’re both strong and ready to play,” said Voloshin, the Knighthawks’ team doctor. He is an expert in shoulder and elbow reconstruction as well as minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder, elbow, and knee joints. Voloshin is assistant professor of Orthopaedics and a member of University Sports Medicine.
“Lacrosse is a very demanding sport on the knee. There’s a lot of cutting, stopping and starting all as your opponents are pushing at you,” said Grant, the Knighthawks’ all-time leader in goals.
ACL injuries can be devastating to athletes often affecting their athletic performance, despite aggressive rehabilitation regimens like Grant and Evans endured.
The ACL, one of four major knee ligaments, is critical to knee stability, and people who injure their ACL often complain of their knee giving-out from under them. Therefore, many patients who sustain an ACL tear opt to have surgical treatment of this injury.
The usual surgery for an ACL tear is called an ACL reconstruction. A repair of the ligament is rarely a possibility, and thus the ligament is reconstructed using another tendon or ligament to substitute for the torn ligament. Grant’s need for surgery was anything but normal. It followed months of treatment for an infection that began in his elbow and moved to his knee. Grant, 35, had previously torn his ACL, in 2004, and had reconstructive surgery at that time. While in Canada back in August 2008, bursitis in his elbow flared up and doctors drained fluid off the joint. An infection developed and he was hospitalized as northern doctors tried to get it under control.
Scans showed the infection had attacked the ligament, “literally turning it to mush,” Grant said. His Canadian doctors removed the screws from the previous ACL repair and removed the infected ligament and tissue in his knee.
“Grant’s knee, at that point, had significant damage. It was very unstable because of the infection which destroyed the ACL and created bone and cartilage damage” said Voloshin.
His surgery required revision ACL reconstruction of the knee joint and it was a complex because “there were tunnels from previous ACL surgeries combined with bone loss. That made it challenging to fix the new graft and make the knee stable,” Voloshin said.
“There was talk that this could be a career-ender for me,” Grant said. “With the help of Dr. Voloshin and his team of experts, it hasn’t happened to me and I’m very grateful.”
He also credits the outstanding support from the Knighthawks team and leadership for helping him through the recovery. “One of the benefits of being in Rochester and playing for the Knighthawks is the expertise that’s available at the Medical Center and University Sports Medicine.”
Evans injury was more common. He tore his ACL during a team practice. “I was heading to the net and went to pass the ball off. A guy came across and my leg jammed. I heard the pop and knew right away what it was. The pain was really bad and my knee swelled up instantaneously.”
“Everything went perfectly with the surgery. Dr. Voloshin was awesome. The rehab was hard, but I knew it was going to be,” Evans said. “And now I’m ready to get back to the team and play again. That’s what we’ve been working toward.”
He endured more than six months of stretching and strength-building exercises to regain full motion and power in the joint.
The six-year veteran is grateful for the opportunity to continue his lacrosse career. It was very difficult to sit on the sidelines and watch during the 2009 season, Evans said.
University Sports Medicine is the nine-county region’s only medical practice dedicated to sports medicine and injuries. The program includes fellowship-trained sports medicine primary care physicians and orthopaedic surgeons, as well as physician assistants, physical therapists, and athletic trainers who have completed extensive training in the management of the full array of orthopaedic conditions.
USM is leading the effort to prevent and reduce injuries to the ACL and shoulder among high school athletes. Each year, trainers and doctors offer educational sessions for coaches to provide information about strength, endurance and flexibility exercises that can help minimize injury to young athletes.