UF sports medicine gets athletes back in the game

Amanda Sherman and Shatana Jackson

Amanda Sherman, 17, and Shatana Jackson, 15, can't afford to slow down on the basketball court, but when both of them tore their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) last year, it was imperative for them to undergo orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation therapy if they were to get quickly back in the game.

In March 2010, Sherman was practicing at school when she jumped up for a rebound and came down on her left knee. The injury could have jeopardized the varsity starting position she has had held since her sophomore year.

"We initially went to the emergency room," her mother, Amy, said. "Amanda had dislocated her knee before but we knew this was something very different."

Just a couple of months later, Jackson tore her right ACL while playing in a May basketball tournament in Clearwater, Fla.

"When she got hurt, she was very brave and believed that God was not going to take basketball away from her," said Jackson's mother, Katrina.

Sherman's mother had turned to Nigel Sparks, MD, a University of Florida assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and rehabilitation, for her daughter's care. On April 15, 2010 Amanda had a successful operation. When Jackson experienced the same injury, Amy recommended Sparks to Jackson's mother.

Both girls had outpatient procedures and began physical therapy at Shands Jacksonville Outpatient Rehabilitation Center at Emerson Medical Plaza.

"ACL injuries are pretty common in soccer and basketball," Sparks said. "These injuries occur more frequently in females because women's knees are a little more knocked, which puts more stress on those joints."

He said that his method of using physical therapy both prior to and after the operation, along with his surgical technique, is what gets his patients back to doing what they enjoy.

"The standard recovery following an ACL reconstruction is one year for return to play, but our individualized rehabilitation protocols and careful attention to patients' needs allow for a much quicker recovery and faster return to sports," Sparks said.

Not only did he put these girls back on the court, but Sparks gave them a new sense of hope after dealing with other unforeseen circumstances in their lives.

"The girls lost two of their classmates and their bible teacher within seven months, and the one thing that got them through that difficult time was being able to play basketball," Amy said. "I know it sounds crazy, but basketball has been their therapy and being on the court gave them peace."

Thanks to Sparks, Sherman and Jackson regained their lives both on and off the court, ultimately leading their team to a district championship title.


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