Active Living

Getting Back in the Game

Sports medicine specialists have an in-depth understanding of athletic injuries, as well as the associated treatment and recovery process. The professionals at Sentara RMH Medical Center and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital work with individual athletes to understand their unique goals and needs and guide them to the best treatment path for their situation. 

“Our primary focus is to restore function and get the athlete moving again,” says orthopedics and sports medicine specialist Thomas S. Weber, MD, of Sentara Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists. “Depending on the situation, we are able to use either surgical or nonsurgical techniques—or a combination of the two—to get athletes back in the game.”

Successful Surgery and a Newfound Career Path

Surgery, combined with a year of rehabilitation, helped Luke Bailey get back on the football field—and gave him a focus for his future.

During a football scrimmage at Wilson Memorial High School in Fishersville in August 2018, Bailey tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). “I went in to make a tackle,” says the 18-year-old. “I was hit from an awkward angle and went down and twisted my knee.”

A sophomore at the time, Bailey didn’t immediately realize the severity of his injury. To assess the situation, he first went to South River Rehabilitation & Performance in Stuarts Draft, and was then referred to Clark Baumbusch, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Sentara Sports Medicine Center. “Dr. Baumbusch knew it was an ACL tear right away,” Bailey recalls. “He scheduled me for surgery before he even had the MRI scan done.”

Dr. Baumbusch built a new ACL using a portion of Bailey’s patella (kneecap) tendon. “It’s probably the most common approach for someone who is a contact athlete, and it’s a well-established surgical technique,” he explains, noting that each person’s situation is different, and that ACL surgery should be tailored to a patient’s specific injury, goals and expectations. 

For Bailey, the surgery itself was a breeze. “The whole process was really easy,” he recalls. “I was very comfortable. Everyone I encountered made me comfortable and helped me relax.”

His recovery was a long process, however, which is typical with ACL surgery. He started physical therapy the day after surgery, but otherwise spent the first week resting in bed. He then saw Dr. Baumbusch regularly for follow-up care. For the first month, Bailey went to physical therapy five days a week and then tapered to three or four days a week for the next year.

Rehab following ACL surgery has evolved in recent years, with an emphasis now on getting people moving and bearing weight immediately after surgery. But rehab also focuses on tailoring a program to the needs and healing level of each patient. “Luke was a pleasure to work with,” says Dr. Baumbusch. “I tell my patients that recovery is dependent on several variables: the ability of your surgeon to fix your problem, the ability of your therapist to understand and manage rehab, and the dedication the patient has to get better. When those stars align, the sky’s the limit.”

The length of a rehab program depends on each patient’s goals. Bailey transitioned to athletic performance training in the final months of rehab to ensure that he was fully ready for a new season of football. “His goals were to get back to competition and contact sports at a high level,” notes Dr. Baumbusch. “That’s a pretty lofty goal, and in those situations the rehab can last a year.”

Rehab and sports conditioning helped prepare Bailey for a return to the competition he loved. “I was in a better place than before the ACL tear,” Bailey says. “I would recommend Dr. Baumbusch 100%. He was awesome and very personable. Every time we went to the clinic, it was always upbeat and cheerful, even though the reason we were there wasn’t fun.”

Bailey continued playing at tackle and middle linebacker during his junior and senior years, and also wrestled for Wilson Memorial. “I’ve had zero problems with my ACL,” he says. He’s also a competitive powerlifter and plans to continue lifting while he attends James Madison University in the fall. 

Somewhat unexpectedly, his injury and rehabilitation process also led him to explore a new career: He now plans to major in kinesiology, with a focus in exercise science. 

“My injury is what made me want to go into this career,” he explains. “I was able to see the different aspects of physical therapy and athletic performance training. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to be a strength and conditioning coach.”

A Wrist Break and a Return to the Court

Ben Bellamy’s sophomore basketball season at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg was cut short in February 2021 by an injury during a state playoff game on his home court. 

“I went in for a layup near the end of the fourth quarter,” says the sophomore shooting guard. “I jumped up, and a kid went under me and took out my legs.” Bellamy, 17, tried to catch himself on the way down, but all of his body weight landed on his left wrist. “I had never had a broken bone before, but it really hurt, so I figured something bad had happened. I remember thinking how I wouldn’t be able to finish the year and how it would affect my travel basketball season. I was hoping it was just a small sprain.”

The athletic trainer covering the game that night, who happened to work at Sentara Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists at Sentara RMH, contacted Dr. Weber to get Bellamy an appointment the following morning. “One great thing about our department is we have employees throughout the region serving as athletic trainers at games,” says Dr. Weber. “This allows us to get people prompt and accurate care, and also save the time and cost of a trip to the emergency room or urgent care.”

The next day, X-rays showed that Bellamy had fractured his wrist. “Dr. Weber was really straight up and didn’t sugarcoat anything,” says Bellamy. “He told me it was going to be six to eight weeks before I’d be back. He was really cool. He knew I was sad, but he was trying to make everything better. He made the process a lot smoother.”

Bellamy needed a cast for four weeks and a wrist brace for two weeks after that, but he didn’t require physical therapy. According to Dr. Weber, younger athletes typically don’t need surgery or physical therapy for a wrist break. “These younger patients with wrist fractures tend to bounce back very well,” he says. 

Dr. Weber did give Bellamy some exercises to perform to strengthen his wrist and get him ready for travel basketball. The exercises included squeezing a stress ball throughout the day to improve Bellamy’s hand strength while he wore the brace. “Once his bone was ready to go, he wanted to play,” Dr. Weber says. “We had him do aggressive therapy, which younger athletes can handle because their bones tolerate it well. We had him back on the court as soon as that cast came off.” 

Bellamy returned to play most of his travel basketball season in the spring and plans to play with another travel team this summer. Then, he hopes, it’s back to high school competition. 

“I thought I was going to be out for two months, but it was thankfully only about six weeks,” he says. “I feel better than ever. I feel really good.”

Injured? See a Sentara Sports Medicine Doctor!

In Harrisonburg:

Sentara Orthopedic & Sports Medicine Specialists 

(East Market Street and Elkton locations)

540-689-5500

In Charlottesville:

Sentara Sports Medicine Center at Sentara 

Martha Jefferson 

(Pantops and Proffit Road locations)

434-654-5575 

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