Brentwood High School student Joseph Clay was in action on the football field in 2014 when he twisted his knee and heard a telltale ‘pop.’ “My knee didn’t hurt at first, but after a while, it became hard to walk and was very painful,” says Clay, now a senior. He paid a visit to SLUCare orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Kaar, and the diagnosis was a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in the center of the knee.
Kaar performed surgery, and after a period of recovery and physical therapy, Clay returned to his favorite sports only to reinjure the knee, this time on the baseball field. For the second round, Kaar performed the ACL repair again, but used an additional technique called ALL (anterolateral ligament) reconstruction on the outside of the joint. This helped strengthen and support the knee even further. Now fully healed, Clay is as active as ever, and says the SLUCare team made a difficult process much easier for him.
Kaar says ACL tears are common among high school and college athletes, especially those who play sports that involve sudden stopping, jumping and changing direction. “Most of the injuries we see fit into one of two categories,” he notes. “There are tears and structural damage like Joseph had and overuse injuries caused by activities like pitching and throwing. We also see a lot of growth-plate inflammation in kids’ elbows and shoulders, along with shoulder ligament tightness.” Basketball players often suffer from ankle sprains and knee tendinitis, and gymnasts are at high risk because they can injure various parts of their bodies, Kaar says. In any case, if injuries aren’t treated quickly, they often lead to more serious problems later, he notes.
He advises athletes of all kinds to stay healthy by varying their activities. “Especially in throwing sports like baseball and football, it’s important to do proper stretching, get appropriate rest and crosstrain,” he notes. “For example, don’t spend all of your time pitching. Take a day off here and there, and try playing another position on the field so your body doesn’t continually have the same stresses. And be sure to stretch properly before and after playing any sport.”
SLUCare’s sports medicine group can help athletes like Clay stay active because of its comprehensive services and commitment to returning athletes to the sports they love. “We are here to keep people playing,” Kaar notes. “We stay on the cutting edge of science and treatments with advanced surgical techniques, rehabilitation, research and a multidisciplinary team of experts.” His practice is an experienced team of four doctors and a physician assistant who work from three SSM Health medical centers—Saint Louis University Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital.
SLUCare doctors also educate and support the community through speaking engagements at schools, athlete physicals and more, Kaar adds. He is the team doctor for the Saint Louis University Billikens, and he and his colleagues work with students like Clay at a number of local high schools and colleges.
Clay says his road to healing was not easy, but he felt supported throughout the process, and the care he received got him back in his cleats and onto the field. He runs track as well, and says his knee feels strong. “Dr. Kaar was there for me every step of the way,” he notes. “He always made sure I stayed on the right path.”
Pictured: Dr. Scott Kaar works with high school athlete Joseph Clay.
Photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group
SLUCare Physician Group provides comprehensive sports medicine diagnostics and treatment for athletes of all kinds. Pictured on the cover: SLUCare orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Kaar with patient Joseph Clay. For more information, call 314.768.1050 or visit slucare.edu/orthopedic.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group