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“Physical therapy can be something you dread. For me it was a joy!”
Catasauqua High School junior Hannah Edwards is a nationally ranked softball player. She has been named to the USA Today High School Sports preseason softball team and is a finalist for the Gatorade Player of the Year. To stay fit during the offseason she plays another sport she loves: field hockey. It was during a fast break in a hockey game last August that she fell and sustained a patella tendon injury.
Hannah is the youngest in a family of baseball enthusiasts. In addition to being an impressive athlete, she’s smart, kind and exceedingly humble. And odds are she will follow her brother and role model, Zac, as valedictorian of her class.
“After that hockey game, my knee locked and I couldn’t stand up,” Hannah recalls.
Her first thought was, “I don’t want my sports career to end over an injury in high school!” Her second thought was to head straight to Coordinated Health, where both her father and her brother had been successfully treated for sports injuries.
An MRI confirmed Orthopedist Nick Slenker’s diagnosis: patella tendonitis. He worked closely with PT Mike Price and performance coach Frank Lupin to develop a rehab plan for Hannah. After she completed PT she would move on to a specialty softball clinic for female athletes.
With the help of the CH team, Hannah made a complete recovery, and has returned to softball. But her story doesn’t end with her comeback. After working with Mike, she’s decided she wants to become a physical therapist, and is studying anatomy and physiology and doubling down on science classes in preparation for college.
Hannah’s dad, Robert Edwards, earned the nickname “Yogi” as a child, when he became fascinated with Yankees great Yogi Berra. In the 70’s he played baseball and Football at Muhlenberg College. That’s where he tore both his ACLs.
“Back then, they just took everything out – my cartilage, my ACLs. From 1978 to 1992, I went completely without,” he recalls. “Then I found Dr. Carl Weiss at Coordinated Health. And he recommended reconstruction.”
Dr. Weiss used tendons from Yogi’s patellae to reconstruct his knees. Rehabilitation was very different in the early 1990s, and according to Yogi, Physical Therapist Gary Schoenenberger was an “aggressive” healer.
“Rehab back then was tough. If you didn’t do your homework, you paid for it when you went back,” he says. “It’s completely different now.”
Yogi spent many years working on his knees with Coordinated Health. He developed such a respect for the group he sent his children to them when they were injured.
“Coordinated Health has been great for my family,” he says. “Everyone there is competent and friendly – from the doctors to the front desk staff.”
He adds: “I’m not kidding when I say it’s almost like being in Disneyworld.”
“Rehab’s changed a lot since I was first injured 30 years ago!”
“High performing athletes are hard to hold back during rehab. They’re like caged animals.”
Dr. Nick Slenker has a busy sports medicine practice. In addition to his duties as orthopedic surgeon at Coordinated Health in Allentown, he also serves as Team Physician for both Parkland High School and Lafayette College.
Dr. Slenker quickly assessed Hannah’s injury and recognized the common trait she shared with top performance athletes.
“I love taking care of athletes who are motivated to get back, but they can also be a challenge,” he says. “They like to test the limits of how fast we can get them back on the field.”
Dr. Slenker had no doubt Hannah would be back on the field quickly. To make sure she did it safely, he recommended PT with Mike Price, followed by conditioning and functional training with Performance Trainer Frank Lupin.
“Sports medicine isn’t just about surgeries,” Dr. Slenker says. “It’s about the team that surrounds the athlete. Our teams are so highly trained and integrated that they get amazing results. “
As a former Lehigh University swimmer, Physical Therapist, Mike Price, understands first hand the struggles of elite athletes. Equal parts class clown and skilled practitioner, Mike uses both his expertise and his humor to help his patients move through the physical and emotional challenges of rehab.
After a few weeks of working with Mike, Hannah approached him about shadowing his job. She needed to complete a requirement for school, but she was also interested in learning more about a job that she admired.
“Hannah was very attentive,” Mike says. “She quickly grasped that we deal with patients of many ages, personalities and backgrounds. While the treatment goals may be the same, the approaches have to be different. She gained a great appreciation of that.”
After the shadowing experience, Hannah knew she wanted a career in a field where interacting with people was as important as depth of knowledge.
She decided to shift her college major from the study of Exercise Science to Physical Therapy with the goal of getting a doctorate in the field.
“People go and study the books,” Mike says. “But to excel at PT, you have to know how to engage with people. Hannah has excellent people skills.”
“For an athlete, the stress and anxiety over their future careers can be as debilitating as their physical injuries.”
“When Hannah came out of rehab, the question was, ‘What’s the next step?’”
Frank Lupin is a well-known figure in Lehigh Valley sports medicine. He came to Coordinated Health in 1990 from Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic and was placed as the first in-school Certified Athletic Trainer in the Lehigh Valley. Frank has a deep understanding of high school athletes and gives them the same attention and care he would his own children.
When Frank was asked to transition Hannah out of rehab and into performance training, he felt that she was strong enough to focus on getting better, not just getting back.
“Mike gave me the rundown on what Hannah was capable of,” Frank recalls. “Our goal was to get Hannah to a higher level in terms of strength, balance and mechanics.”
Frank helped Hannah see the way her hip and ankle had compensated for the injury to her knee. They focused on exercises that helped restore the proper balance between her ankle, knee and hip.
“It was important to Hannah to understand what she was doing,” Frank says, “so she could take ownership of the program and manage her own care.”
“And,” he adds, “I had no doubt she would succeed!”