Conditions + Treatments
My name is Reagan Riley, and I am a 2023 graduate of Mountain Brook High School. I am currently a freshman, student-athlete at the University of Notre Dame where I am a member of the women's cross country team.
I grew up in Mountain Brook and come from a family of runners. Growing up, I played basketball and soccer, but I always knew running was my passion.
I love running and since my parents and brothers all ran, it was a huge part of our family's lifestyle. My dad raced at Mountain Brook High School and in college at Furman and Auburn. My mom ran for the Spartans until the ninth grade. My three older brothers — Griffin, James and Harris — all ran for the Spartans and made All-State. Griffin also ran at Ole Miss and was an All-American.
In the 7th grade, I started running, and I quickly realized I was kind of good at it. I was like, "Wow, this is so fun." I love how pure it is, that the work you put in is what you get out. It’s a sport that is similar to the way you do life. It is something that embodies life, how hard you have to work and how it guides you in day-to-day situations and when you go through adversity. It gives you a warrior mentality.
Through middle school and high school, I just continued to push myself to get better and better. My freshman year of high school is when I learned hard work and fully committed to being the best runner that I could be. I started setting goals to maximize my potential. Fortunately, I was a pretty good runner out of the gate, and people started telling me I had the talent to be great high school runner and the potential to compete at the collegiate level.
SURGERY WITH DR. BENTON EMBLOM - FRESHMAN & SOPHOMORE YEARS
In the fall of my 9th grade year, my hip started bothering me. I was playing basketball, and I was getting up at 5am and going out and running because I wanted to be successful at both basketball and cross country.
One day during basketball practice, I took an awkward step on the court and felt a pain and sensation in my hip. I remember thinking to myself, "that step didn't feel right." Over time, my hip pain continued to worsen.
Unfortunately, we were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just I kept running on it through the pain. Finally, in the summer going into my sophomore year, I knew something was wrong. My family spoke with Jake Jordan, our Mountain Brook athletic trainer, and he helped me set up an appointment with Dr. Benton Emblom, a hip specialist at Andrews Sports Medicine.
During my initial appointment with Dr. Emblom, he suspected that I had a torn labrum, caused by a mix of genetics and overworking. He ordered an MRI and confirmed I had a torn labrum. Dr. Emblom also informed me that I had a hip impingement, which he was going to also repair. A silver lining of my labrum tear was discovering that my hip impingement had been negatively affecting my running gait for years.
Dr. Emblom performed my hip surgery on September 11, 2020. Unfortunately, I missed most of my sophomore cross-country season because of hip surgery. Following my surgery is when I learned that I had to work really hard to achieve my goals. My surgery was like an "aha moment" and at that point I knew running was something I wanted to keep pursuing and that if I wanted to be successful, I’d have to be 100% dedicated to the sport.
Post surgery, Dr. Emblom and I had conversations about my recovery. He notified me that the standard recovery from my type of surgery was three to four months.
I shared about my desire to get back to help my cross country team win a state title. I let him know it was personally important to me to get back that cross country season to help our Spartans team win another state championship. Dr. Emblom was very encouraging throughout my entire recovery process. I recall during a follow-up appointment that I told Dr. Emblom I wanted to race in a couple of weeks. He quickly commented back, “I think that is a great idea. I’m going to help you get there.” He knew and understood how important it was to me to make it back to competing that season.
In my opinion, I had the best physical therapist in the world, Phil Moore, with Therapy South SOHO. Phil was awesome and my recovery went great. I could not speak more positively about my experience with him.
Through hard work and dedication, I was back competing in 2 months. I returned in time to compete in the Alabama High School Athletic Association state cross-country meet, but I wasn’t in tip-top condition, finishing 18th in the Class 6A race with a time of 20:16.64. Our team finished as team state runners-up to Homewood High School.
JUNIOR & SENIOR YEARS
Going into my junior year, I was more dedicated than ever. In my training, I discovered I had a higher gear to my sprint and found speed that I didn't have prior to my hip surgery. just because it was so locked down on. And that was super beneficial to my running super beneficial.
In only 6 months after my hip surgery that I was able to win my first-ever state title. Prior to my surgery with Dr. Emblom, I had not won a state title so it was a testament to his skill and expertise of repairing both my labrum tear and hip impingement that propelled to be a better runner and competitor.
Dr. Emblom helped me discover my potential to be my best, and I could have not won multiple state titles, receive awards and compete at the college level without my hip surgery as a sophomore at Mountain Brook High School.
I feel very fortunate to have received these girl's cross country accolades during my high school career:
- Two (2) AHSAA 6A girl's cross country team state championships (2021, 2022)
- 2021 AHSAA 6A individual state championship (17:06.33)
- 2022 AHSAA 6A individual state championship (17:57.30)
- Two-time USA TODAY All-American (2021, 2022)
- 2022-2023 Gatorade girls state cross country Player of the Year
- 1st place - 2022 Southern Showcase (Huntsville, AL)
- 2nd place - 2022 Nike Hole in the Wall Invitational (Lakewood, WA)
- 9th place - 2022 Garmin RunningLane National Championship (Huntsville, AL)
- Set 7 MBHS school records
UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME
As a high school student athlete, the college recruiting process was definitely a lot of fun. With track and field, the process is easier to understand because it is just a numbers game, you know what your running times and that's what college programs are using to recruit you.
Fortunately, I had a number of schools recruiting me, and I really didn't have an early favorite or preference. My junior year, I visited Notre Dame on a whim on an unofficial and I remember being on campus with my parents I was like, "This is where I'm going to go to school."
I committed to the University of Notre Dame at the start of my senior year at Mountain Brook High School.
SURGERY WITH DR. LYLE CAIN
The summer going into my freshman year at Notre Dame, I started experiencing IT band discomfort on my right knee, honestly because of the way I run. Initially, I saw Dr. Jody Ortega and he diagnosed me with IT band syndrome. Throughout the summer, we tried a lot of different things to try to get my IT band to calm down - rest, anti-inflammatories, injections, physical therapy, and I modified my running program.
Unfortunately, the discomfort continued and Dr. Ortega thought it would be best to have a surgical consult with Dr. Lyle Cain. Dr. Cain reviewed my history from my hip surgery and to my current IT band syndrome. He felt like the condition would continue to plague me and be a nuisance throughout my collegiate career, so he recommended that I need to IT band release surgery.
Dr. Cain performed my IT band release surgery on July 27, 2023. Overall, the surgery and recovery went very smoothly. I moved to South Bend and started classes and continued to recover from surgery.
On a side note, since Dr. Cain is a Mountain Brook graduate, I feel like there is a special connection. Anytime I would have an appointment, we would discuss my knee, but then he would transition the conversation to talk about my experience at Norte Dame and my experience as a collegiate student-athlete, which I really appreciate.
I am now in my Spring, 2024 semester at Notre Dame. I am eternally grateful for the orthopaedic care that Drs. Cain, Emblom and Ortega have provided me over the years and have helped me achieve Victory Over Injury.