Swimmer Chooses Data-Driven Approach to ACL Reconstruction

During his freshman year in high school, competitive swimmer Jacob Bailey tore his right ACL. The injury occurred during a game of kickball in physical education class. Jacob, who had never been injured before, knew that something was very wrong. “I fell and I heard a pop. I tried to straighten my knee and it was completely locked,” he says.

Jacob’s parents took him to an urgent care center, where the doctor ordered an X-ray and then told him there was nothing wrong with his knee. When Jacob’s pain didn’t let up and he still couldn't straighten his leg, his parents took him for an MRI. This test showed a torn ACL and a lateral meniscus tear.

The Search for Answers

After figuring out that he needed ACL reconstruction surgery, Jacob and his parents went to see a local orthopedic surgeon. “He couldn’t tell me whether or when I’d be swimming again or what the physical therapy program looked like because he had nothing to do with that,” says Jacob.

In search of answers, Jacob and his parents went online where they found Shelbourne Knee Center. Even though Indianapolis is about a four-hour drive from their then home in Mount Vernon, Indiana, they made an appointment with orthopedic surgeon K. Donald Shelbourne, MD.

Research Data Provide Reassurance

From the start, Jacob’s experience at Shelbourne Knee Center was “overwhelmingly positive.” Dr. Shelbourne recommended ACL reconstruction so Jacob could return to all sports and activities safely.  He gave Jacob and his parents a booklet about the procedure. “That spelled out answers to 99% of our questions and even to questions I didn't know I had yet,” says Jacob.

Dr. Shelbourne also was able to answer questions about the re-tear rate and the return-to-sport rate after ACL reconstruction, treatment of meniscus tears, and questions specific to swimming. “Dr. Shelbourne showed us the research to back every statement he made,” says Jacob.

Shelbourne Knee Center has been tracking patient outcomes and studying factors related to those outcomes for 37 years. “By tracking our results, we ensure the best outcomes with the fewest complications for our patients,” says Dr. Shelbourne.

Because Shelbourne Knee Center has eight physical therapists on staff, Dr. Shelbourne was able to explain the physical therapy protocol and the role of pre- and post-op physical therapy in an optimal long-term outcome. Jacob started physical therapy the day of his first appointment and then completed most of it at home.

Back to Competition in Six Weeks

Dr. Shelbourne reconstructed Jacob’s ACL on November 25, 2013. He treated the meniscus tear with trephination, which uses needle sticks through the meniscus to stimulate natural healing. “Trephination is all that is necessary with most types of repairable meniscus tears,” says Dr. Shelbourne.

In the hospital, Jacob began post-op therapy. Four days later, the only pain medicine he was taking was Aleve. Six weeks after ACL reconstruction, Jacob was swimming competitively again for Castle High School in Newberg, Indiana, and U.S. Swimming.

As with his pre-op therapy, Jacob did most of his post-op therapy at home. Jacob’s physical therapist provided clear instructions, along with support. “I wasn’t doing it alone,” he says. “My therapist called me routinely and was tracking how well I was doing.”

A Career in Medicine

Now age 20, Jacob is a pre-medicine major at the University of Evansville, where he competes on the swim team. Inspired by his experience with his ACL tear, Jacob is planning to be an orthopedic surgeon.

Like many patients, Jacob participates in Shelbourne Knee Center’s research program, which includes annual surveys and coming back for free follow-up visits at 2, 5, 10, 15 and 20 years after surgery.

During one of these research visits, he expressed his interest in orthopedic surgery. That led to an internship in the research department at Shelbourne Knee Center. This summer, Jacob is working with orthopedic surgeon Rodney Benner, MD, on projects such as developing a classification system for patellofemoral instability injuries and analyzing knee measurements before and after total knee arthroplasty. The first project is designed to share best practices with other orthopedic surgeons. The second will provide data that can be used to improve care for patients at Shelbourne Knee Center.

For more information about ACL reconstruction at Shelbourne Knee Center, call 888-FIX-KNEE.