Jessi Nelson

Trussville, AL

Conditions + Treatments

ACL Injury/Reconstruction
Medical Icon Hip Labral Tear

Seventeen years of competitive and collegiate cheerleading were slowly coming to an end during the last semester of my senior year and 4th year cheerleading for the University of Alabama. Thankfully, I had never had an injury other than a minor sprained ankle here and there.

On March 6, 2015, with only one event left to cheer as an Alabama cheerleader, I was at the gym to help some future cheerleaders prepare for tryouts when I decided to do some tumbling passes, something I've always loved. On my last pass, a double full, a skill I've done over a thousand times, I landed standing straight up on my feet, when suddenly my right leg gave out and I fell to the floor. I feared I knew exactly what I had done when I felt the pop.

I called my athletic trainer immediately and was soon evaluated in the training room at the University of Alabama. After being evaluated by two athletic trainers and seeing the team physician in Tuscaloosa, Dr. Laubenthal, everyone thought it was just a torn meniscus. However, the MRI showed differently, that I had torn my ACL and medial meniscus.

I'm very blessed for the timing of the injury because it wouldn't interfere with my cheerleading career, but tears still filled my eyes hearing the news. I soon met with the rehab specialist at the University of Alabama, Rodney Brown, LAT, ATC. He took me through my MRI, scheduled my appointment and surgery with team physician, Dr. Lyle Cain, and discussed the rehab process for when I returned to Tuscaloosa following my surgery.

Never having had a major surgery, I was terrified going into this ACL reconstruction. This injury had always been my biggest fear throughout my many years of cheering and tumbling. However, March 17, 2015, Dr. Cain reassured me as I cried before being taken back to surgery that everything would be okay in the end and took phenomenal care of me.

I started therapy the next day at Champion Sports Medicine at St. Vincent's, due to it being spring break at the University of Alabama, with Marc Rosner, PT, DPT, who I now work under. I spent three days at CSM before returning to Tuscaloosa with Rodney, team physical therapist, David Breedlove, PT, and my athletic trainer, Kassie Voeks, LAT, ATC.

I spent three hours a day, everyday, working with these amazing people, hurting not only physically, but more so mentally. My goal throughout college was to become a physical therapist, I applied my senior year to PT schools around the country, not gaining acceptance. In a moment of weakness, two weeks before graduation, I called my mom crying and begging to change my major because I didn't think I could be a physical therapist anymore. She reassured me that this injury was all part of God's plan. She believed this would help me gain acceptance to PT school and while I did not want to believe it at the time, I now know it was exactly part of the plan.

After graduating in May, I decided to move back home to Birmingham and I returned to CSM at St. Vincent's and worked with physical therapist, Todd Hooks, PT, ATC, for the remainder of the summer trying to get my knee back to normal. However; due to scar tissue having built up in my knee, and severe pain in my right hip, I couldn't do any exercises without pain or my knee catching and giving out on me.

I then found out in August, 2015 that I also had a torn labrum in my hip, which probably caused me to tear my ACL and was then referred to Dr. Benton Emblom. It was as if nothing was getting better, but I continued to tell myself God has a plan and maybe this was how I was going to get into PT school after all.

I was soon offered a job at CSM as a rehab tech with my former PT, Marc Rosner, PT, DPT. I was so blessed to have this opportunity to be around such amazing therapists and doctors. After continuing to do therapy daily during my lunch breaks and consulting with Dr. Emblom, he injected my hip and on September 28, 2015, Dr. Emblom decided to operate on my torn labrum, hoping to relieve the pain so that my knee could fully recover.

Three months after doing more therapy everyday, my hip was feeling amazing, while my knee still continued to catch with every exercise I did. Returning to Dr. Emblom's care, he explained that I had a fat pad impingement in my knee and decided to inject it to see if it would relieve the pain. It did for about a week; and at this point, my only option was to have another operation on my knee. On February 26, 2016, Dr. Emblom did a knee arthroscopy to clean up the scar tissue.

Now having started my therapy process over for the third time in the past year, it has been far from easy, with many tears shed, and sometimes wanting to give up on everything. Having been through these operations and the therapy involved, I now love physical therapy so much more. I know I chose the right profession and I know that's why God led me through this storm.

I gained acceptance to PT school in September at Samford University and will begin in May. I now know I can relate to patients on a much better level, and I love hearing and sharing stories while working at CSM. I cannot wait to become a physical therapist and I pray that I can have the same impact on my patient's lives that Dr. Emblom, Dr. Cain, and all of the amazing physical therapists I've worked with have had on mine. I wouldn't have said it a year ago, but I am thankful that this injury occurred and I know it is the reason for where I am now. 

Treatment Providers
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E. Lyle Cain, Jr., MD View Bio
Benton A. Emblom, MD
Benton A. Emblom, MD View Bio