Brooke Bittinger

Iron Mountain, Michigan

Conditions + Treatments

ACL Injury/Reconstruction

Since I was 4 years old, I’ve dreamed of playing collegiate soccer. Growing up many hours of my life were dedicated to practicing and time in a car with my parents and teammates. We would drive from state to state for soccer tournaments and to my club team for practices which was a 2 hour drive then eventually a 3 hour drive each way from home.

When I was about to enter my freshman year in high school, which is an extremely important time in the recruiting process for girl soccer players, I felt I was on a good path to achieving success. My dream was starting to become a possibility until one defensive play went horribly wrong.

I was playing at a college showcase in Iowa with my previous club team, FC Green Bay. It was the second game of the day, and we were all very tired. I went up to guard a girl and she went one way and my body tried to follow her, but my knee went the complete opposite (way). I blacked out on the ground, and I remember waking up to my coach.

My family and I just thought it would go away. Even an athletic trainer on site thought it I had just sprained my IT band, and no surgery would be needed.

I knew something was wrong when I would walk and my leg was giving out. Once I got back home, I had an MRI and found out how significant my injury was. I tore my left anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus. I was absolutely crushed because surgery is a full year of recovery.

As we learned, the surgery would need to be delicate because at a young age my bones had not fully hardened in the growth plates within my knee.

I am from a small town in Michigan. The closest orthopedic surgeon was in Green Bay (2 hour drive) or Milwaukee (3.5 hour drive). My family and I weren’t successful in locating anyone we were comfortable with to perform this surgery.

My family and I knew a girl who lived in Marquette, MI (1.5 hour drive from us) through both soccer and ski racing that had ACL surgery at Andrews a year prior to me. She went through the same issues locating a doctor around here who would perform the surgery, and her family recommended Dr. Benton Emblom at Andrews Sports Medicine in Birmingham, AL.

After researching the clinic and doctor, my parents and I had pretty good confidence with Andrews Sports Medicine. We submitted my paperwork and MRI to Dr. Emblom’s clinical team. They said they wanted to see me immediately because it was a fresh ACL and that they deal with growth plates all the time, so we made the appointment. However, we were still a bit skeptical until we drove the 15 hours and met the staff and Dr. Emblom. My family and I realized at that moment it was the best possible direction for me!

Dr. Emblom was exactly the person I needed to meet. The way he treated me in the exam room was excellent. I was completely comfortable with him performing the upcoming surgery. I also met and really liked working with Alexis who works for Dr. Emblom. She was someone I could talk to and she knew what to say to me to help me navigate what I was going through. My parents and I were also relieved that Andrews would allow my physical therapy to be done in our town at the Back in Motion clinic.

The day of surgery, I was very nervous to undergo anesthesia. But knowing both Dr Emblom and Alexis would be there helped me relax. I recall a memorable moment before I fell asleep on the operating table. I heard Alexis walk into the room, and she told me everything was going to be OK, it made me smile.

Looking back to that day at surgery, I realize Both Dr Emblom and Alexis Murphy were the best my family and I could have asked for. I cannot thank them enough for helping me. Dr Emblom, Alexis and our local PT, Chris Moore are the reasons I have chosen the PT field as a career path!

After a year of rehab and physical therapy, I finally returned to the field. It took loads of vigorous training to regain my strength and speed. Not to mention, COVID cancelled my high school soccer season, another opportunity for college recruitment lost. I wasn’t ready to give up on my hunt to play college soccer. It was just going to take lots of extra hard work.

In April of 2022, I committed to play at Central Michigan University. A school that has a great soccer team as well as an excellent Physical Therapy program. I felt so much relief because growing up I’ve always wanted to achieve this dream. After the obstacles that I’ve gone through, mentally at some points I didn’t think I could do it. Signing those papers made it official. It’s awesome. I feel great! Thank you Andrews Sports Medicine, you are a big part of my success.

Read more about Brooke's story here

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Benton A. Emblom, MD
Benton A. Emblom, MD View Bio