Going into her sophomore year at Fort Payne High School, my daughter, Brooke, started experiencing really severe back and leg pain. Brooke, who is currently a member of the University of Montevallo Falcons softball team, always had problems with back and leg pain, but it started to severely affect her activity about 3 or 4 years ago.
Over the years, we tried so many different things - we went to the chiropractor, did PT, and Brooke even got an MRI to look for a nerve issue. Originally her pain would wax and wane. When she was doing heavy lifting in the off season it would flare up. Then, during her time off in winter she would get better. By the time high school softball season came around in the spring, Brooke was better, and she was okay to play.
The flares would happen here and there until Brooke's senior year of high school, when she was doing really heavy weight lifting. We think that’s when the labrum actually tore or at least got much worse. She finally got an MRI of her hip and it confirmed her labrum tear. We decided to get the opinion of a doctor a lot of our family uses in Huntsville. They told us, “we can’t fix this labrum, she has hip dysplasia.” We were so confused. She was checked as a child and it never crossed our minds that it could be a bone issue. Brooke had several hip films, but no one ever caught it. We kept asking ourselves, “how did this happen?”
When Brooke first found out about her diagnosis, she researched it for a long time, and found out how she fits all the criteria. She learned 1) it is most common in women 2) first-born children 3) kids who go through a significant growth spurt. Brooke grew 5 or 6 inches in one year. She grew so fast, her body never caught up. After all of her research, we suspected that growth spurt was the cause of it, but we can’t know for sure.
Brooke has dysplasia in both hips, but her left was worse than her right. The left hip really caught the brunt because Brooke is left handed, everything she does comes from her left side: she hits off her left, throws off her left, base runs pushing off the left. Her right is only about half as bad as left was. She didn’t have any tears on the right, but our surgeon still plans to monitor it. We will address it, if needed. As long as it’s not causing pain, it’s not a problem.
Our high school football coach gave us the contact information for Dr. Benton Emblom. When we came down to see Dr. Emblom, the first thing he ordered was a contrast MRI study of the hip with steroid injection. He wanted to inject Brooke to give her some relief, but the joint was so tight they could hardly do the injection. He told us he couldn’t fix her labrum without fixing the bones first because it would just re-tear. Dr. Emblom was hoping the injection would give Brooke enough relief that she wouldn’t need such a big surgery, but she didn’t get any relief at all.
At this point, Brooke was in very severe pain. Dr. Emblom had a conversation with us about his Andrews Sports Medicine associate - Dr. Michael Ryan and his experience with hip dysplasia, but unfortunately, Dr. Ryan was in Switzerland at the time completing a mini fellowship.
When Dr. Ryan arrived back in the United States, we finally got in for surgery. All in all, there were really actually two surgeries: One was a scope for her labral repair and the other was to fix the bone problems. It was such a long day. When he got in, things much worse than originally expected. The rear part of the labrum was very large, and the joint was very tight. Overall, Brooke's complex surgery was deemed successfully and she began her journey to recovery.
Brooke’s been doing really well ever since. Her pain is already better than it was before. She’s just ready to be healed and back on to the field.
Dr. Ryan and his surgical coordinator, Kirby, have been so awesome. They took such great care of Brooke in the hospital. St. Vincent's Birmingham is by far one of the best hospital stays we’ve ever had, as the nurses were so amazing and so helpful.
Dr. Ryan and Kirby continue to be available for anything we need. Kirby has been my sanity throughout this entire journey. We contacted Kirby for everything. She’s been amazing and always has a quick response. At 6 weeks post-op, Brooke was relearning to walk because with bone changes comes a change in her stride. She had a lot of atrophy in the large muscles in her hip and upper leg from the post-operative healing period.
Brooke signed her scholarship for softball at Montevallo before we found out about her hip, so she was a medical redshirt during the 2017-18 season. This enabled Brooke to technically be a freshman during the 2018-19 softball season. That was a big influence on pushing to go ahead and have the surgery. We knew it was around a 6-month minimum recovery time to get back to where she was 100%.
Going into fall, her coaches have been so great. They know she has limitations right now, we really couldn’t ask for better coaches when it comes to helping her through all of this. Dr. Ryan even thinks she’ll be better than she was before. Once everything heals up, he sees no reason why she won’t be completely pain free once she finishes therapy and gets her strength and endurance back. She’ll also have more flexibility, because of the dysplasia, the hip shape wouldn’t allow her to rotate and bend in certain ways. So, we have hopes that she’ll actually be better.
The athletic training staff at Montevallo has also been great! Anything she ever needs, they are right there with her. Todd Carter, with Rehab Partners, Brooke's athletic trainer for years at home, has been amazing too.
This could’ve been career ending, and now we can’t wait to see her new and improved game. When she was 6 weeks post-op, Brooke finally took her first crutch-free steps on her birthday! I have the video of her walking and I’ve probably watched it a thousand times. She’s been off any post-op medication for months now.
Brooke had a GREAT 2018 fall season! Dr. Ryan released Brooke to play just two days prior to her first game. Just one week later, Brooke hit her first college home run with Dr. Ryan and Kirby in attendance at the game. It was so special for Brooke and brought tears to my eyes because without them that wound not have been a possibility. Brooke still continues therapy three times a week outside of her normal softball work-outs and activities, and she is getting stronger and faster every day. She is almost back to her pre-surgery weight lifting maximums, and other than muscle soreness, is relatively pain free. Brooke remains optimistic that by the 2019 spring season she will be back at full potential.
Lastly, at Montevallo, Brooke is majoring in exercise science. She wants to pursue a career in athletic training. After first-hand experience with so many areas of physical therapy, she’s really looking forward to using all of her patient experience! After all of this, Brooke keeps saying, “if I ever get to run again, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”
Shalanne Whited - Brooke's Mom