Stay in the Game: Arthrex Innovation Helps Football Player Get Back on the Field
When you’re a talented college running back and NFL hopeful, an injury to your ankle in the middle of the season can be devastating. Arthrex innovation is proving it doesn’t have to be.
Kobe Pace entered his junior year at Clemson University coming off a breakout year in 2021, carrying the ball 104 times for 641 yards and six touchdowns over 11 games. But in October 2022, Kobe was sidelined following a game against Wake Forest University.
“I got the ball and I was running through a defender and my ankle went in. I felt a pop, but I got up and was able to shake it off,” he said.
Clemson team physician Steve Martin, MD (Clemson, South Carolina), was immediately concerned that Kobe had a serious ankle sprain. Dr. Martin said Kobe was evaluated one day after the game and, as initial testing looked promising, the medical team made the decision to treat his injury without surgery.
However, after a week of standard nonoperative treatment, Kobe’s pain had accelerated and had to come out of the N.C. State game following two plays.
“It just got worse and worse, the swelling and the pain,” said Kobe. “I would try and practice and it would feel worse and worse as I ran.”
When Kobe alerted medical staff that he was in pain and his swelling was not going down, the decision was made to perform surgery in the middle of the season.
“When the patient has instability of the syndesmosis (the ligaments between the distal tibia and fibula), they can possibly benefit from surgery,” said. Dr. Martin.
Still, surgery is not what an athlete wants to hear in the middle of the season.
“I was concerned when they said surgery that I would be out a long time, that I would lose my season,” he said. “But Dr. Martin said that with this type of surgery I would be out four to six weeks and could potentially be playing before the end of the season.”
Dr. Martin elected to repair Kobe’s syndesmosis injury with the TightRope® system and augmented it with the InternalBrace™ technique.
“The TightRope implant really changed our thinking, especially when you could see what it did for Tua [Tagovailoa] and [the University of Alabama] when he sprained his ankle. It mimics the natural protection of the ligament and allows for a faster recovery,1,2” said Dr. Martin, who has used the TightRope implant in athletes for more than 15 years. “Screws have traditionally not healed as well as the TightRope implant.”
Following surgery, Kobe was in a boot for a week before progressing into a regular shoe. In four weeks, he was back on the football field and scored a touchdown in a game five weeks after surgery.
“I feel like I can move faster and better than before,” he said.
Following his junior season at Clemson, Kobe made the decision to transfer to the University of Virginia (UVA), where he will play the remainder of his college football career.
UVA football head team physician Stephen F. Brockmeier, MD, said he is confident in Kobe’s repair and his ability to play.
“The combination of the TightRope implant and the InternalBrace technique make for a solid repair,” he said. “I am confident in Dr. Martin’s work and know that Kobe is coming to us healthy and ready to play.”
“I’m going to guarantee that we’re going have a better season than we did last year,” he said.
1. Coetzee JC, Ellington JK, Ronan JA, Stone RM. Functional results of open Broström ankle ligament repair augmented with a suture tape. Foot Ankle Int. 2018;39.107110071774236. doi:10.1177/1071100717742363
2. Viens NA, Wijdicks CA, Campbell KJ, Laprade RF, Clanton TO. Anterior talofibular ligament ruptures, part 1: biomechanical comparison of augmented Broström repair techniques with the intact anterior talofibular ligament. Am J Sports Med. 2014;42(2):405-411. doi:10.1177/0363546513510141
The InternalBrace surgical technique is intended only to augment the primary repair/reconstruction by expanding the area of tissue approximation during the healing period and is not intended as a replacement for the native ligament. The InternalBrace technique is for use during soft tissue-to-bone fixation procedures and is not cleared for bone-to-bone fixation.
This is not medical advice and is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by a surgeon or other qualified medical professional on the use of these products. You should talk with your physician or health care provider for more information about your health condition and whether Arthrex products might be appropriate for you. The surgeon who performs any surgical procedure is responsible for determining and using the appropriate techniques for surgical procedures on each individual patient. Arthrex recommends that surgeons be trained on the use of any particular product before using it in surgery. A surgeon must always rely on their own professional medical judgment when deciding whether to use a particular product when treating a particular patient. A surgeon must always refer to the package insert, product label, and/or directions for use before using any Arthrex product. Postoperative management is patient-specific and dependent on the treating professional’s assessment. Individual results will vary and not all patients will experience the same postoperative activity level or outcomes. Products may not be available in all markets because product availability is subject to the regulatory approvals and medical practices in individual markets. Please contact Arthrex if you have questions about the availability of products in your area.