After ACL Tear, Caylee Back in Action with Help From Pediatric Sports Medicine Specialists

January 04, 2021

For Caylee, sports have always been at the heart of her world. The 15-year-old plays golf, basketball and soccer, and loves to stay active in her spare time. So when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, at age 13, she not only suffered immense pain, but was also devastated to spend months on the sidelines.

Caylee and her parents met with two different orthopedic surgeons near their hometown of Metamora, Illinois, but both were uncomfortable managing her injury due to her young age. “In general, they didn’t really have positive things to say,” said Caylee’s mother, Jennifer. 

For their third consultation, the family had a choice between two referrals: An adult sports surgeon, or an orthopedic surgeon at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Familiar with the hospital’s exceptional reputation, they chose Lurie Children’s.

‘In exactly the right spot’

That summer, the family met with Neeraj Patel, MD, MPH, MBS, an attending physician in the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine at Lurie Children’s. Dr. Patel specializes in the reconstruction of ACL tears for children of all ages, using advanced techniques to protect their growth and minimize the risk of re-injury. Dr. Patel is one of 10 members of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) work group tasked with creating clinical practice guidelines for the management of ACL injuries and leads multiple research studies on ACL tears in children.

Right away, Caylee found it easy to trust Dr. Patel. “My first impression of Dr. Patel was that he has cool socks,” Caylee laughs. “He had a lot of confidence. I felt like I was in exactly the right spot.”

After reviewing scans of Caylee’s knee, Dr. Patel walked her and her parents through his proposed plan for surgery and active recovery. He would perform an ACL reconstruction with meniscal repair, using part of her quadriceps tendon to create the ACL graft. Given Caylee’s high risk for reinjury, he also recommended reconstruction of the anterolateral ligament (ALL) with an iliotibial band graft to provide additional stability to the knee.

The family felt certain that of all the doctors they had heard from, Dr. Patel’s plan sounded most promising for Caylee. “It felt like everything happened so we could meet him,” Jennifer said.

In August of 2019, Dr. Patel performed successful reconstructions of Caylee’s ACL and ALL and repaired her meniscus. She quickly began physical therapy, and after many months of hard work, she was cleared to play sports again in May 2020.

Home, healed and happy

Caylee, left, in her homemade T-shirt lauding Dr. Patel, with Dr. Patel

During her freshman year of high school, Caylee was able to enjoy several months of sports before the coronavirus pandemic brought in-person schooling and activities to a temporary halt. One of her proudest achievements was making the varsity golf team in fall 2019.

Until normal life resumes, she is staying active by exercising two or three times a day, plays basketball with her sister—one of her two triplet siblings—and spends time outdoors. “I’m just happy I’m able to play again,” she says.

Caylee and family continue to be grateful for the surgeon who restored her ability to do what she loves the most: lead an active life. Earlier this year, she met with Dr. Patel wearing a shirt that she says sums up her experience: “I had 99 knee-related problems, but Dr. Patel fixed them all.”

About Lurie Children’s Institute for Sports Medicine

The Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine is nationally ranked for pediatric orthopedics by U.S. News and World Report. Our sports medicine specialists have advanced training in pediatrics and sports medicine and offer age-appropriate care to active, growing children and teenagers. Our services are available at our main hospital and outpatient locations throughout the Chicago area. 

Lurie Children’s has implemented several safety measures related to COVID-19, including required mask-wearing, screening for COVID-19 symptoms, isolating COVID-19 suspected patients and more to ensure safety for families like Caylee's. Click here for more information about the hospital’s response to COVID-19.