Stay in the Game: Duke University Lacrosse Star Returns to the Field Thanks to Arthrex Innovation
For collegiate lacrosse star Anna Callahan, coping with injury was something she had to learn early. During her senior year of high school, an opponent fell on her fully extended leg on the lacrosse field, hyperextending her knee and causing pain that she kept pushing through until she got to college.
As a freshman at Duke University, a conversation with an athletic trainer about the feeling of instability in her knee led Anna to seek out Ned Amendola, MD* (Durham, NC), Virginia Flowers Baker Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine Division Chief at Duke University.
Dr. Amendola diagnosed Anna with an injury to her tibiofibular joint, which is located between the tibia and fibula and can be easily confused with other knee joint disorders.
“Lacrosse is a very strenuous sport, and knee injuries are all too common,” he said. “What Anna had is not very common, not like an ACL tear. With an injury like this, which isn’t grossly unstable, we would often immobilize the joint and let it heal on its own.”
When the conservative treatment approach didn’t work, Dr. Amendola augmented Anna’s tibiofibular ligament using the InternalBrace™ procedure. He secured the proximal fibula, one to the front and back of her tibia, with SwiveLock® anchors and FiberTape® suture. Anna said the relief she felt was almost immediate.
“This surgery literally saved me and my quality of life,” she said. “I was worried about the injury all the time and the pain kept me up at night. I was pushing through, but it was tough.”
With a stable knee (tibiofibular) joint, Anna said she was able to train harder and play better on the lacrosse field.
“Suddenly, I could trust my body again. My coach noted that I had hesitated to plant my leg before,” Anna said. “It was truly night and day for me, and I was able to get much stronger and even more competitive.”
Dr. Amendola says the beauty of the InternalBrace procedure is that it allows surgeons to repair soft tissue injuries in a minimally invasive manner. For many years, surgeons would use screws or grafts to stabilize the joint, which often made it stiff and associated with more morbidity.
“You have to protect the peroneal nerve that runs very close to the joint,” he said. “A minimally invasive surgery is a much more attractive option. The InternalBrace procedure stabilizes the joint with much less trauma and provides stability right away during the healing process.”
Today, Anna is a college graduate who is excited that her stable knee will allow her to compete in CrossFit, pickleball and even run a marathon.
“I am excited to work out for me - to be the kind of athlete that I want to be for the rest of my life,” Anna said. “And thanks to Dr. Amendola and this surgery, I know I can do just that.”