Knowing when to throw the towel in can be a hard reality for any sports enthusiast. But for the athlete who lives and breathes their sport of choice, it can be even more excruciating. It wasn’t until he was being wheeled in to the Vail Valley Medical Center for his 13th surgery on his right knee that Neil McCahill, a 22-year old Metrostate University junior in Denver, CO, told himself, “I’m done”. From that point forward, he knew that he would soon be just a spectator in the stands instead of an active player on the field.
Neil’s story is one that involves one knee injury after another taking him around the world to find the right treatment and ultimately ending up at The Steadman Clinic and in the arms of Dr. Robert LaPrade.
Growing up in Denver, CO, Neil was always an active, vibrant youth. He played football and basketball during his entire adolescence and it would be these same sports that would prove to be too much for his right knee.
The First of Many…
Neil suffered his first injury—a torn meniscus—at age 13 during a basketball game. At that time, he had it trimmed by a Denver orthopedic surgeon, but time and time again, this same knee would be reinjured and again, trimmed. After three meniscus surgeries on the same knee, Neil knew that he needed to find the very best in orthopedic care if he had any chances of earning a scholarship and playing ball in college. It was then that Neil and his mom made a trip to Vail, Colorado and visited The Steadman Clinic where he began to see Dr. Richard Steadman.
Dr. Steadman discussed the best treatment for a torn meniscus but also discovered that Neil had a torn ACL and believed that Neil needed a meniscus implant. Unfortunately, the implant surgery was not available in the U.S. as a treatment for a torn meniscus, but it was available in Germany. In fact, it was Dr. Steadman himself that actually developed the technique and trained a doctor in Germany to perform it. At age 14, Neil boarded a plane to Germany and while there had the Microfracture technique, ACL reconstruction and the meniscus implant all in one surgery.
When Neil returned back to the United States, he went through very intense and targeted physical therapy at Howard Head and then again in Denver. He began playing sports again and soon after, in June of 2010, he reinjured the same knee with yet another torn ACL. Neil immediately went to The Steadman Clinic, but this trip would be very different. In the middle of this visit, Dr. Steadman brought in a new doctor that had been with the clinic for just a couple of weeks.
When Dr. Steadman introduced Dr. Robert LaPrade, he told Neil that this was the very best doctor in the world. That was all Neil needed to hear and from there, a new bond was formed.
Meeting Dr. LaPrade
“I was surprised when Dr. Steadman introduced me to Dr. LaPrade. I had been through so many tests and doctors and I was really anxious. Dr. LaPrade changed my view on everything. He looked me right in the eyes and in a very calm and reassuring voice told me that the reason why I kept re-injuring my ACL was because the implant was doing a great job of preventing arthritis that comes with meniscus injuries, but it wasn’t providing me with the stability I needed. By the time I had this discussion with Dr. LaPrade, I had already had 10 surgeries. Dr. LaPrade knew exactly what he was talking about. I have never met someone so calm, collected, direct and skilled as he was towards me. I knew I was in good hands,” said Neil.
In August of 2010, Neil had his 11th surgery at the hands of Dr. Robert LaPrade. This consisted of a meniscus transplant surgery and ACL reconstruction. During the meniscus transplant surgery, ligament taken from Neil’s patella was used during the transplant portion. The surgery went great and was performed by a team of doctors, including Dr. Steadman, who took a very keen interest in Neil’s injury.
According to Neil, “Dr. Steadman was in the operating room with Dr. LaPrade the whole time during the meniscus transplant surgery and my ACL reconstruction. My injuries were kind of perplexing and what is so cool about The Steadman Clinic is that the doctors there take a very big role in the successful treatment and recovery of the patient’s injuries. After my surgery, I entered rehab and Dr. LaPrade would take the time to come down to the rehab center and sit with me and talk about my progress, answer any questions, and just chat with me. He truly cared about my recovery and what I was going through. In all of my time spent at medical facilities, I cannot compare anyone to him. He truly is an original. Together with Dr. Steadman, I know I had the best medical attention in the world.”
Following the summer of 2010, Neil decided to take his junior year of college off and focus on rehabilitating his knee. He went to live in Vail and did nothing but rehab for weeks at Howard Head; he would also travel back to Denver and visit his physical therapists there. He was on crutches for months and after a couple of small surgeries to remove some scar tissue and to help clear up an infection, Neil was officially on his way to recovery.
Today, Neil is still doing rehab, but he feels really good. He is walking without a limp, off crutches, exercising his knee, strength training and doing everything he can to rehabilitate his knee and gain the strength he once had.
Although he no longer can play sports, something that meant the world to him at one time, today, he brushes it off. “I actually am totally fine not playing again,” he said. “Being healthy, active and pain-free is so much more important to me now. When you go through something like this, your perspective changes. I just feel overwhelmed sometimes that I ended up in the hands of Dr. LaPrade. He is the most brilliant doctor I’ve come across. His bedside manner is unbelievable. If I have a question, he is there. I feel like I’m in constant good care under him. That alone, gives me the reassurance I need to move on from my injury and with my life.”
Neil plans on reentering college and studying hospitality and hotel management. He loves the Denver area and plans to reside there long-term. Because according to Neil, “Denver is awesome….and it is close to Vail, and to Dr. LaPrade.”
While clinical studies support the effectiveness of these procedures, individual results may vary. There are no guarantees of outcome. All surgeries involve the risk of major complications. Before you decide on surgery, discuss treatment options with your doctor. Understanding the risks of each treatment can help you make the best decision for your individual situation. Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits. Only your doctor can determine the appropriate treatment for your situation. The clinical information and opinions, including any inaccuracies expressed in this material by patients or doctor are not necessarily those of Robert LaPrade, MD and should not be considered as substitute for medical advice provided by your doctor.