ACL reconstruction, rehab help athlete return to the field

October 21, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

Tyler Woltman is back behind home plate doing what he loves.

Ten months ago, Woltman was hobbling around on crutches after a Thanksgiving Day football game with friends resulted in a knee injury. His knee was swollen and causing him pain.

“We were just playing a little pickup football game when I heard a nasty pop in my knee,” says Woltman, a sophomore catcher on the Illinois State University baseball team.

Woltman, who began playing baseball at the age of 3, was concerned about what that pop — and the knee pain he was having — could mean for his baseball career.

The initial diagnosis from another hospital showed a torn ACL and damage to the meniscus. The proposed remedy was an ACL reconstruction with hamstring autograft and meniscus repair, the ISU sophomore from Wheaton recalls.

“I got a second opinion because that didn’t sound too good for me,” he says.

Woltman turned to Edward Hospital and orthopedic surgeon Zahab Ahsan, M.D., for another look. Dr. Ahsan recommended the use of patellar tendon autograft, the gold standard for ACL reconstruction, and noted the likely meniscus repair would not be needed.

Woltman had his surgery in December and by the summer he was back on the ball field, seven months after ACL reconstruction.

“An ACL tear is one of the most common type of sports injuries experienced by the competitive athlete,” Dr. Ahsan says, noting that it could take some athletes over a year before they fully recover. “Tyler’s expedient recovery was very impressive.”

Dr. Ahsan is quick to note, though, that surgery was just the first step of recovery. The months of rehabilitation that followed, and Woltman’s commitment to therapy, were key to Woltman’s return to action.

“Successful return to sport requires equalization of the muscle strength and improvement of agility and balance greater than that prior to the initial injury, something that requires intense commitment to rehabilitation. I often tell patents that the real work begins after surgery,” Dr. Ahsan says.

“Comprehensive post-surgical care, including close communication with therapists, coaches and athletic trainers during the recovery process, are key to getting athletes back to sport in a timely fashion.”

Dr. Ahsan referred Woltman to one of his preferred physical therapists in Chicago that had prior experience with the USA women’s soccer team.

“Given that he was such a high-level athlete it was a good place for his rehabilitation,” Dr. Ahsan says.

Woltman had access to cutting-edge rehabilitation technology known as blood flow restriction (BFR) therapy to help him quickly regain strength in his knee. In this technique, a cuff is placed around the thigh to partially occlude blood flow to the muscles around the knee, allowing the muscles to work harder with less effort.

“It allows for accelerated hypertrophy of the muscle and can dramatically speed up an athlete’s recovery,” Dr. Ahsan says, adding that the technique is now being used at some Edward-Elmhurst Health clinics. “This is now a pre-requisite for the post-surgical rehabilitation of my elite athletes.”

Woltman acknowledges rehab was the hardest part of his recovery. He went four days a week, every week, for seven months. But his efforts have paid off and he returns for a full season of baseball this fall at ISU.

“I really can’t complain,” Woltman says. “It feels like a brand-new knee. I’m just really pleased with how my knee feels now and how little complications I had throughout the whole process.”

Learn more about treatments for knee issues at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

To learn more about Dr. Ahsan or to schedule an appointment online, visit his online profile.

The orthopedic team of experts at Edward-Elmhurst Medical Groups-Orthopedics provides exceptional orthopedic, sports medicine and podiatry services for patients of all ages. We use the least invasive treatments necessary to help you get back to the activities you enjoy, as quickly as possible. Learn more.

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