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Your Healthy Family: Courtney's road back from a severe ankle injury

Posted at 4:57 PM, Sep 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-29 18:57:59-04

Following up on yesterday's story about working to reduce the risk of injury, in this story we meet Courtney, who ran track and field in college and is an elite level athlete. Courtney recently learned about the process of healing from a serious injury.

Courtney says, “I have been running track for almost 17 years.” She was fortunate enough that through her athletic life, she had never been seriously injured, until earlier this year.

In our last story we met Katelin Staab, a Sports Performance Coach with the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence, who has been working with Courtney as part of her return to the sport she remains so passionate about. In that story we also talked about how a basic level of fitness and activity can help prevent, or decrease the severity of injury. Certainly Courtney had those things as an athlete, but accidents happen to people who are young and in shape as often, if not more often on average - than people who are less active.

When injury hits anyone, often seeking professional help to heal is needed. Katelin says, “Courtney came to us with a pretty severe ankle injury months and months ago.”

Courntey explains, “I was out at the track with my boyfriend, he trains with me. We were getting through warm-ups and everything was fine, so it was onto the work out. The first part was some power movements we were doing hurdle hops. We set up some hurdles with spacing in between and they were set at a certain height. It was a little high, but I thought I’ll just try this height. I went over the first two just fine, and I was thinking, ‘this is totally cool.’ Then I go over the third one and my toe catches on the hurdle.”

Courtney landed awkwardly on her foot, with the full force of her body weight bending it backwards. She says she tore 3 ligaments, one of them almost completely. She was non weight bearing for eight weeks, in a cast for two weeks, and in a boot for a couple weeks after that. “It was a long road to recovery.”

A road she had never traveled, that even for a lifelong athlete had moments of doubt about her future. Courtney says, “It was a huge shock at first, just to be taken off your own legs and from walking. If you have to wake up and use the restroom in the middle of the night you have to grab your crutches and crutch all the way there. You feel like, ‘Am I ever going to get back to where I was.’”

As she began the rehab process, Courtney's natural athletic ability did help her along the way. It may have been part of the reason she wasn’t more severely injured, and didn’t require surgery.

Katelin says, “She started on our physical therapy side, and something unique we do here (at Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence) is we have physical therapists, athletic trainers and strength coaches and we all work in unison.”

Working through those separate aspects of her recovery, with consistency and time, the work has paid off and Courtney is back on her feet and says she is feeling great. “Today walking up the stairs I was thinking this feels so different than even like a month or two ago. It's crazy what can happen if you're consistent and dedicated and you listen to the therapists and trainers. They are willing to help you and if you listen to them things can happen - miracles can happen. I didn't have surgery at all! And I'm walking on my ankle, I'm sprinting on it, I'm lifting it's amazing.”

The big take away lesson is that even if you're not a naturally athletic person like Courtney, the path of rehab and strength training can help you live a more improved life simply by getting active on a regular basis, in some way.

Courntey says, “I think having this injury has shown me that if you work on pre-hab, rather than waiting for rehab, if you did a squat, a push-up, and something with your upper body - if that was all you did like five days a week you would see a huge difference. It really doesn't take going to the gym for three hours or going to physical therapy five times a week.”

If you want to learn more about the Sports Performance program or the Return to Sport program at the Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence before you need it, and how it helps a wide range of people - from student athletes, to elite athletes, recreational athletes, those who may work in a physically demanding job, or those who simply want a better quality of life - feel free to contact them.

The Colorado Center for Orthopaedic Excellence is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family