Conditions + Treatments
My name is Maria Bienvenu, and I am a javelin thrower at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Sports have always played a big role in my life; however, track and field did not become a big part of my life until my senior year of high school.
Growing up in Natchitoches, Louisiana, I attended St. Mary’s High School where I graduated in a class of 32 students. During my time at St. Mary’s, I was fortunate to play a role in winning the basketball state championship during our 2020 season.
After the basketball season, the track and field coach saw me throwing a basketball all the way down the court and told my dad that, with my arm strength, he thought I would be a natural at throwing the javelin. Through the combination of my parents’ encouragement as well as my own interest, I quickly began to practice throwing the 600-gram spear in my front yard.
I quickly realized that my love for softball and basketball did not compare to the passion and love that I had for the javelin. While I learned very early on that the javelin was much harder than it looks as well as how technical throwing the javelin can really be, I have been fortunate to have my coaches and family pushing and encouraging me to be better through every step of my journey to ultimately reach competing at the collegiate level.
With their help, I was fortunate to earn a scholarship from the University of Louisiana where I was able to participate in my first meet. With COVID throwing off the spring Track and Field season of my senior year, I had no statistics to show that I was truly good at the javelin.
I am so thankful that the University of Louisiana-Lafayette was willing to take a chance on me as, without their help, I would not have been able to qualify for the NCAA Championships in 2021. With my coach’s help as well as my hard work, I was blessed to have thrown a 175-1 which earned a 12th place finish and second-team All-America honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Additionally, I ranked in the NCAA’s top 10 having thrown a 175-9.
In March of 2022, I began to experience problems with my elbow while competing at the Texas Relays. After throwing the javelin, I felt a pop in my arm that quickly became very painful. Never having had issues in my arm before, I assumed that it just needed to be rubbed out. An MRI provided an understanding as to what was happening as it showed that I had torn my ulnar collateral ligament (or UCL) in my elbow.
I believe that while trying to throw the javelin as hard as I could, I side-armed it rather than throwing it over the top as we are supposed to. I was eager to recover as quickly as I could and therefore found a physical therapist who could help in working on my range of motion. The pain did seem to get better during that time period; however, I was still not able to throw. I was referred to Dr. Jeff Dugas who was known for having helped many baseball players who had the same injury get back on the field. While I was disappointed about my season having to end early, I was hopeful for what could be done to get me back in the game.
Dr. Dugas was very thorough in explaining what surgeries I was a candidate for as well as discussing how the overall process worked. This process can be intimidating; however, I took comfort in knowing that he had saved many baseball careers with the same injury. With my UCL being partially torn and the tissue quality in my elbow, Dr. Dugas recommended the UCL repair with an internal brace procedure.
The repair he was recommending was different than the Tommy John surgery that he had used many times on many of the other baseball players’ injuries. Using the Arthrex UCL repair kit and Internal Brace augmentation, I would be allowed a more aggressive rehabilitation protocol that helps in returning to the game faster than if I had the Tommy John surgery. Additionally, I appreciated that he took the time to go into great detail in explaining that my repair would look different than the typically repair used for the baseball players.
In his explanation, he stated that the javelin throwers and baseball players both use their arms to throw, however, the javelin throwers use their maximum efforts each time they throw as well as using a different motion which extends a different part of the ligament. The repair he was recommending was especially helpful in that when I throw with maximum effort, my arm should not be negatively impacted. Overall, Dr. Dugas did a wonderful job in helping my family and me understand what this surgery would look like and gain confidence that I would be back in the game in no time.
In my rebound year after elbow surgery, I had a terrific 2023 outdoor season, working hard and striving to be one of the best collegiate women’s javelin competitors in the country. Fortunately, I won the Louisiana Classics (my first event of the year), won the Sun Belt Conference championship where I was blessed to set a meet record, and was one of 24 competitors in the event at the 2023 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, finishing in 13th place and once again earning second-team All-America status.
I am thankful to Dr. Jeff Dugas and his team for helping me achieve Victory Over Injury!