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MBSH gets football player back in the game

Monday, March 10, 2014

MBSH gets football player back in the game

Dedicated physical therapy aids Sullivan High football star with incredible comeback after season-ending injury

Football is Joey Rigdon’s life passion.  The 17-year-old Sullivan High School senior played varsity football all four years of his high school, starting for the last three years as a running back. After the 2013 season, Joey received two awards: first team all-region and second team all-conference. It was a feat that seemed nearly impossible following a major knee injury that he sustained during the 2012 season.


During a playoff game against Westminster Christian Academy on October 31, 2012, Joey was tackled by a defenseman as he carried the ball down the field. “He dove directly into my left leg,” recalled Joey. “I heard a huge pop in my knee and was in horrible pain.”


Unable to move his leg, Joey had to be carried off the field by Kerri Wallace, athletic trainer for the football team and a physical therapist at Missouri Baptist Sullivan Hospital. Joey’s primary care physician, Matt Tiefenbrunn, MD happened to be at the game, and along with the EMT staff, helped stabilize Joey’s knee.


The next morning, Joey arrived at MBSH for an MRI on his knee.  The news was bad.  He had two torn ligaments – the anterior cruciate (ACL) and mediate collateral (MCL) – plus torn cartilage (lateral meniscus), and would need surgery.


The next day, Wallace evaluated Joey for pre-surgery rehab. “She worked to help me better prepare for surgery, and know what to expect in terms of my recovery and physical therapy (PT) after surgery,” says Joey.


Two weeks after the injury, Joey had surgery. The outpatient procedure included ACL reconstruction using hamstring tissue and meniscus repair. His medical team felt confident that Joey would make a full recovery, though they warned him that it could take up to six months to completely heal.


“I woke up from surgery in a lot pain,” said Joey. “But I knew that was just the first step to recovering and, hopefully, playing football again.” The next step was starting PT.


One week later, Joey was working with Kerri at the hospital’s rehab center, doing various exercises to help strengthen the muscles in his left leg. “At times, it was frustrating to try to get my muscles moving again,” said Joey. “Fortunately, Kerri and the PT team were very supportive and pushed me to get stronger. They knew I was anxious to play football again.”


“When we first started, Joey thought he’d never play again,” recalls Wallace. “I told him that this was just a bump in the road, and that he’d return even better, faster and stronger – after all, that’s our motto in PT.”


Joey worked with Kerri two days a week for the next five months. Determined to maximize his results, he also performed daily exercises at home every six hours. After 44 sessions with Wallace, Joey completed his PT program in April 2013 – just in time to join the track team at school.


“He worked exceptionally hard and was very compliant,” says Wallace. “I believe he finished PT as a better athlete than before, and I am really proud of him.”


Joey competed in the 100- and 200-meter races without any knee issues. His strength and success on the track reassured him that he’d be able to return to the football field as a stronger, more competitive player. In the summer of 2013, Joey’s greatest wish was fulfilled: he was able to join his football teammates as they prepared for the season. More importantly, he didn’t experience any pain or knee issues when he played.


Joey had a record year as running back, and his Sullivan High School varsity football team went on to become conference champs. He also received a scholarship to play college football at Westminster College in Fulton, MO., starting in the fall of 2014. In the meantime, he’s enjoying the last few months of his senior year of high school, and looks forward to running track again this spring.


“Although I suffered a terrible knee injury, I’ve come to believe that it was more of a blessing than a curse,” says Joey. “It made me much tougher mentally. And the intense PT helped me become a better, stronger athlete. For that reason, I will always be grateful.”


In fact, Joey is so grateful and inspired by Wallace and the hospital’s PT team that he’s decided to enter a pre-medical program at Westminster College with the goal of becoming a physical therapist someday.