The Athlete’s Knee: Healing Where It Hurts
It was a critical play and game played by Southern Oregon University Raiders against top-ranked Carroll Saints on November 29, 2014. With just 4:38 left in the game the Raiders went ahead with a 36-yard liner from quarterback Austin Dodge to wide receiver Sean McShane who overcame pass interference and made the grab while falling backward in the snow-covered end zone. A play that helped the Raiders win their subsequent first-ever NAIA Football National Championship. This exceptional play almost never happened.
Sean McShane didn’t let a knee injury keep him out of the two most important football games of his college career. Sean was headed to the NAIA Championship Series and ultimately a national title, but was almost sidelined by a tear in his meniscus, that little piece of cartilage in the knee that provides cushioning for the joint.
#16 Sean McShane back in the game
The tear came during the first game of the 2013 Southern Oregon University (SOU) football season. “It was the last play of the first quarter,” recalls Sean. “I caught a punt, and a player from the defense dove at my legs, nicking me. I did a somersault, and when I popped up I knew something was wrong.”
It didn’t take long to diagnose the problem: an MRI showed a meniscus tear in the left knee. Orthopedic surgeon and physician for the SOU athletic teams Hal Townsend, MD, was on the sidelines during the game. “Sean wasn’t able to straighten his knee, which was a good indication that a fragment of the meniscus had gotten caught in the hinge of the knee.”
Two weeks later Sean had surgery at Asante Ashland Community Hospital to repair the damage. “The hospital has top-of-the-line arthroscopic equipment for this type of procedure,” says Dr. Townsend, a partner at Ashland Orthopedic Associates. “We have the best technology to smooth out the meniscus or repair it with stitches, depending on the configuration and location of the tear.”
Whether it’s SOU, high school teams, or weekend warriors, taking care of local athletes is very familiar territory for Asante Ashland. “The staff makes every effort to ensure that athletes feel comfortable,” says Dr. Townsend. “They trust their limbs to us, and we want to get them back in the game as safely and quickly as possible.”
After months of rehabilitation, any lingering concerns about a full recovery have evaporated for Sean. “One year after surgery, I can’t tell the difference between my good knee and the one that was injured. It feels awesome.”