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Coming Back Stronger Than Ever

With Proper Injury Care, Athletes Return to the Sports They Love

The orthopedic surgeons at the Sentara Sports Medicine Center at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital understand the needs of athletes. They have experience caring for athletes at all levels—from weekend warriors to professional athletes—and they use their in-depth knowledge to find the best treatments for each patient’s unique injury, prevent future complications and improve athletes’ long-term health. 

A Cyclist’s Return from a Collarbone Break 

Sid Crocker likes to challenge himself physically with mountain biking, kayaking, backpacking and other activities. 

In 2018, he took his new mountain bike out on some rough terrain with a friend at Observatory Hill in Charlottesville. While attempting to jump the bike over a rock, he flew over his handlebars and landed on his right shoulder. At the moment of impact, he felt a crack in his collarbone with severe, sharp pain. After a long hike back to his truck, Crocker went to the Sentara Martha Jefferson Emergency Department to get an X-ray, which confirmed his suspicion: His collarbone was fractured in multiple places and severely displaced. 

A nursing supervisor who has worked at Sentara Martha Jefferson for 11 years, Crocker searched for treatment options that would allow him to return to his outdoor activities. He met with Sentara Martha Jefferson orthopedic shoulder and sports surgeon Stephen B. Gunther, MD, who recommended surgery. 

Using a highly technical minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Gunther inserted a titanium rod inside Crocker’s shoulder bone. The procedure realigned the fractured fragments, stabilized the bone and allowed full healing.

Crocker had the procedure at Sentara’s Outpatient Surgery Center at Pantops. 

“It was great,” he says. “The nurses were fantastic. I know some of them, and they were all interested in why I was there having surgery.”

The recovery period tested him, since he had to keep his right shoulder in a sling to reduce movement and promote healing. “It was hard not to be able to exercise or cook and prepare meals,” he recalls. “Life was certainly challenging, living in a sling and not doing much with my right side.”

Crocker, who is 40, noticed that his body didn’t heal as fast as it used to during his youth, even though he’s an athlete and eats a healthy diet. “I felt like I should have bounced back quickly, but I’m not 20 years old anymore,” he admits. 

Five months after his April 2018 surgery, Dr. Gunther gave Crocker the all-clear to return to his favorite activities. To celebrate, Crocker went on a whitewater rafting trip in West Virginia. He also returned to mountain biking at the scene of his injury at Observatory Hill, where he is still hoping to master that jump. 

“Cycling and kayaking are integral to my life and my happiness,” Crocker says. “It was amazing to get back on the bike and continue to do things I like. Dr. Gunther is an excellent surgeon who gives you straightforward answers. The outcomes have been nothing but amazing.”

A Volleyball Player’s Comeback from Knee Injury

An on-court collision with a volleyball teammate left Maggie Butters with a knee injury during her junior year of high school.

While playing with her club team in February 2019, Butters dislocated her knee and tore her medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL), which is located on the inside of the knee and holds the kneecap in place. She also damaged the cartilage under her kneecap.

“The top half of my leg went one way, and the bottom half went the other,” she says. “I couldn’t put weight on it or straighten it.” 

Butters went to Sentara Martha Jefferson orthopedic surgeon Matthew J. Panzarella, MD, for treatment. 

“When I went in for the first appointment, Dr. Panzarella was very nice and very welcoming,” says Butters. “He really made me feel right at home. I knew I could trust him with fixing my knee. He gave me a lot of information, and I know a lot about the knee now.” 

Through reconstruction surgery, Dr. Panzarella replaced Butters’ injured MPFL with part of her hamstring tendon, stabilizing her knee and helping to prevent future joint damage. Following the procedure, four months of physical therapy helped strengthen Butters’ knee. She also used an electrical muscle stimulator at home to stimulate the nerve muscles in her quadriceps and help her move again.

“Rehab is super important in these cases,” says Dr. Panzarella. “Surgery is half of it, but rehab is the other half, and Maggie was a superstar at working to get her strength back.”

The injury and recovery helped push Butters to be her best on the volleyball court. After struggling to get playing time in previous seasons, she was a team captain at Madison County High School during her senior year and helped lead the team all the way to the state semifinals. She earned first-team all-district and all-region honors, first-team all-Central Virginia honors, and second-team all-state honors.

Butters has committed to play volleyball beginning in fall 2020 at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she plans to major in nursing.

“I feel like this is kind of a comeback story,” she says. “Even though I had this injury, it was just something to make me come back stronger and get that position on the court. I’ve grown a lot from this experience. I can’t thank Dr. Panzarella enough for everything he did for me.”

Back on the Football Field After Meniscus Surgery

Noah Robinson injured his right knee in off-season training during his junior year at Louisa County High School. The 17-year-old wide receiver tore his lateral meniscus, which is a critical cushion for the knee and a protector for the knee’s cartilage. 

Standard care for such an injury used to involve removing the damaged tissue, which often caused long-term damage to the knee. To preserve the meniscus and its critical cushioning using a more modern procedure, Sentara Martha Jefferson orthopedic surgeon Clark Baumbusch, MD, performed a partial lateral meniscectomy with a lateral meniscus repair on Robinson’s knee. Dr. Baumbusch used this minimally invasive technique to suture the tear and anchor the meniscus to the bone.

“Dr. Baumbusch is very knowledgeable,” Robinson says. “He had done the operation many times before, so I felt comfortable with him.” 

Robinson had to stay off his feet for a month after the procedure to give his knee time to heal, and then he did six months of physical therapy to get back his strength and mobility. Although the procedure requires a longer recovery time than a meniscus removal, Dr. Baumbusch says that extra time is worth it. 

“As sports surgeons, we aren’t just worried about next season—we’re worried about three seasons from now,” Dr. Baumbusch explains. “It’s important to fix these problems correctly, so that the knee is stabile and healthy for decades to come.” 

The surgery and Robinson’s hard work paid off. After missing the first half of his senior season at Louisa, Robinson returned to the field, earning first-team all-district and first-team all-region honors in 2019. Dr. Baumbusch even checked in with Robinson via text messages after his games. 

“Dr. Baumbusch is a really cool guy,” says Robinson.

After graduating from high school early, Robinson signed to play football with Old Dominion University. He started his college classes and football team meetings in January 2020, with a knee he feels is ready for college football. 

“I feel 100 percent,” he says. 

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