Patient: Oscar is aged 11 and dreams of playing professional soccer. He was training at a high level 3 times a week and playing 2 to 3 competitive games a week with his academy, club and school. He is also a state competitor in cross country athletics.
Oscar plays as an attacking midfielder in soccer. During a game he pivoted, changing direction at high speed and felt his left knee “give way”, with a popping sound. He fell to the ground in agony and had to be carried off the field, where the sideline Doctor treated him with an ice-pack and recommended he go to the hospital. His dad, Ben, has his own history of ACL injury, so was acutely aware of what may have happened inside Oscar’s knee on this fateful Sunday.
A trip to the Emergency Department resulted in a clear X-ray (no fracture) and a directive to “wait and see”. He was sent home with crutches and a knee that was swollen like a balloon. Oscar’s parents luckily decided not to wait and took Oscar to their local physio 2 days later, who suspected an ACL tear and recommended an MRI.
He had his MRI on day 4 post injury, and with a devastating phone call on day 6, it was confirmed that Oscar had a ruptured ACL. Thankfully the local physio knew about the non-surgical bracing protocol and referred Oscar to Dr Tom Cross.
Due to Oscar’s young age and the need to preserve his growth plates, surgery was considered challenging. The surgical opinion was to wait several years for Oscar to grow taller before considering ACL reconstructive surgery. During this time, he would not be able to play sports such as soccer.
Dr Cross classified his MRI and Oscar and his parents were thankful his ACL rupture was considered a good candidate for the novel Cross Brace Protocol. The brace went on that day (within the ideal window, 7 days after injury).
His parents reasoned that if the bracing didn’t work, all that was at risk was loss of muscle strength, which could be built back during rehab. They knew Oscar would give the process 110%, and the risk:reward weigh up was compelling. As it turned out Oscar only lost around 5% of muscle strength during the bracing protocol due to his dedicated commitment to his physio exercise program.
The hardest parts for Oscar were the worry around the unknown – would it work?; balancing on crutches; learning to sleep in a new position with a pillow between his legs; and showering with a chair. Oscar had abrasions on his skin due to the brace early on, but inserted padding around the base and adjusted the brace fit. The all-terrain knee scooter that allowed him to keep up with his mates was the best investment, and Oscar preferred using his scooter for mobility over the crutches.
Oscar was dedicated to the recovery process and did his own rehab exercises every day for 15 to 30 minutes, as well as visiting the physio weekly for the 12 weeks. He also used an App to tick his exercises off, which gave a great sense of progress every day.
Ben and Michelle tried to make Oscar’s time in the brace fun. They made a big effort to involve Oscar in family activities, so instead of going mountain bike riding, they went putt putt golfing and 10 pin bowling. Oscar also enjoyed watching live sporting events, while dreaming of being in the stadium himself one day.
At the beginning of the bracing protocol Oscar wrote: “Even when you’re down and injured keep your head up strong as there will always be an opportunity to get back up and start doing what you’re meant to do once more”. He has learnt and grown in so many ways throughout this journey, developing a resilience and persistence that has made him a stronger person.
Advice Oscar’s parents gives other parents or caregivers:
Don’t underestimate the “precious early window post-injury”.
Don’t be complacent – Get multiple pieces of advice and do your own research!
There is no substitute for getting an MRI, which you can take to see a specialist.
There is nothing to lose to see if the Cross Brace Protocol will work.
Oscar’s advice to other kids who are doing the bracing protocol:
Think of the healing journey as a square made up with: commitment, discipline, dedication and positivity.
Commit to the work.
Be disciplined in your actions – don’t take stupid risks.
Dedicate yourself to healing – improve your diet, reduce sugars, increase protein, do your daily exercises to the maximum level rather than minimum.
Positivity – stay mentally strong. The best athletes are the ones who have overcome adversity. “Never give up, even if it seems impossible”.
Oscar recently had his 3-month check and was “over the moon” that his ACL had healed. He is thrilled to be out of the brace, and even though he is frustrated that he can’t play soccer again until next year, he knows it will be worth the wait.
WELCOME TO HEAL ACL. A COUPLE OF THINGS TO NOTE...
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