Arthrex Innovation Helps Olympic Hockey Player Get Back in the Game
Growing up in Plymouth, Minnesota, Danielle Cameranesi took to hockey early.
“Minnesota is a big hockey state, and I have an older brother (Tony) who plays. Growing up, I wanted to do whatever he did. So when he put on hockey skates, I was right behind him,” she said.
Eventually, playing hockey wasn’t just a pastime, and Danielle – who goes by Dani – had a serious shot at making the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team.
All Dani’s hard work was suddenly jeopardized in December 2016, when she was injured in a game between the University of Minnesota’s Women’s Hockey Team – her team and alma mater – and the University of Wisconsin.
“A player hit me and at first I thought I had sprained my ankle. I thought if I rehabbed it, it would get better. But even after taking some time off, my foot just kept giving out when I was skating – it had no power,” she said.
She went to several doctors before she was eventually referred to Dr. J. Chris Coetzee (Minneapolis, MN). Radiographs showed an opening in her syndesmosis and Dr. Coetzee diagnosed a severe high ankle sprain.
“I knew time was of the essence,” he said. “She was getting ready to try out for the Olympic team.”
Dani said the diagnosis was devastating, but a “why me” attitude wouldn’t help.
“The goal was to make the Olympic team and if there was a chance I would have a shot at it, I was going to take it,” she said.
Dr. Coetzee said Dani had several options to repair her ankle. With nonsurgical treatment, her ankle might or might not heal correctly and she certainly wouldn’t be back to skating by the Olympic trials. Another option would be surgery using screws to repair the syndesmosis.
“Though I could have used screws to repair the injury, she would be obligated to keep the ankle non-weightbearing for a time and the screws would eventually need to be removed. An additional danger was that the screws could break,” he said. “She could then be facing a second surgery in the middle of a tournament.”
Dr. Coetzee then told Dani about Arthrex’s Syndesmosis TightRope® implant system, which uses strong nonabsorbable sutures with metal buttons on the bones to stabilize the syndesmosis joint in the ankle.
“It is good for patients at any level because it can allow them to safely return to the activities they love sooner,” he said. “I have been using and studying the TightRope implant system since the product’s early days. My patients undergoing this surgical procedure recover more quickly, with much less pain, and they don’t require a second surgery to remove the screws.”
Dani said once Dr. Coetzee explained the Syndesmosis TightRope implant system as a way to keep her ligaments in position and possibly get her back to playing in time for the Olympic trials, it was easy to make the decision to move forward.
“One of the things that I liked about him was that he was performing a surgery the other doctors weren’t doing and I wasn’t going to need a second surgery,” she said. “It was a no-brainer.”
Three days after Dr. Coetzee explained the procedure to her, Dani went to the hospital to undergo the 30-minute surgery.
“I was in a cast for two weeks and a boot for two weeks after that,” she said. “He told me I should do weight-bearing things if possible and I was walking right away. I walked so much, I put a hole in the bottom of my cast.”
After about two months, Dani was back on the ice, in time to finish the last three games of her college season.
“I knew I was going to the Olympic Team tryouts and it was nice to have a few games at the end of my college season to play before then,” she said. “And my ankle felt great. It was fully healed if not even better than before the injury.”
Dr. Coetzee said he never would have had the confidence to tell her to skate in the trials if she had chosen the procedure done with screws instead of the TightRope implant system.
“The TightRope system is good for surgeons at any level; it is a modern system and it is best for patients because it will get them back to safely doing what they want to do sooner,” he said.
Dani skated in the Olympic Team tryouts and was invited to do a residency with the team in Florida in September 2017. At the final cuts in January, it was announced that Dani had made the 2018 U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team.
“I am thankful to Arthrex because they helped me get to the tryouts,” she said. “I didn’t have to put my dream on hold for another four years.”
The U.S. team would go on to win the gold medal, ending a 20-year drought against rival Canada.
“It was an amazing experience. After all the hard work, we were finally there,” she said. “I was so happy to be there and to win the gold medal with my teammates.”
Dr. Coetzee said he was pleased he could help Dani get to the trials.
“Then, of course to see her score two goals in the semifinals to get them to the gold medal game was very exciting,” he said.
Dani is not done with hockey. She is currently playing with the Buffalo Beauts in the National Women’s Hockey League and has her eye on the 2022 U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team.