From the Bench to the Net: A Soccer Champion’s Story of a Popliteus Tendon Tear/PCL Injury

Home/From the Bench to the Net: A Soccer Champion’s Story of a Popliteus Tendon Tear/PCL Injury

soccer3There’s a name for kids who live, breathe, and dream soccer.  Where at any given time of day, they can be found practicing their tricks, one-upping their juggling skills, or perfecting their shot, even if it risks breaking a window, or other household item. “Soccer rats” as they are referred to are players who not only play because they are good, but play because they have an undying passion for the sport, and the unnerving will to get better.

Kyle Jisa can relate.  A 20-year old college junior at Nebraska Wesleyan, Kyle has been handling a soccer ball since before he could walk.  Having played for the local YMCA leagues in his hometown of Lincoln before playing six years of club soccer, he later went on to letter during all four years of high school where he received all-conference honors, as well as academic all-state honors.  Today, Kyle is a forward for Wesleyan and recently was honored as the Conference Player of the Week, as well as named to the 1st team All-Division 3 Independents team.

While Kyle’s story may sound like it has all of the build-up and ingredients for a true fairy tale ending, the journey that led him to where he is today wasn’t without some pain and heartache.

During his senior year in high school Kyle experienced his first knee injury of his soccer career.  While injuries associated with soccer players often involve the ACL, Kyle’s injury was not as cut and dry.  During an indoor game, Kyle was going one on one with the opposing team’s goalkeeper when three opposing players hit him at the same time, putting exceptional force on his knee and sending him crashing to the hard turf.

Within hours, Kyle was diagnosed with a Grade 1 PCL tear by a physician in Lincoln, and was put in a brace for three months.  Although he continued to play his senior year in a brace, it wasn’t without pain.  Knowing that this pain still nagged at him every time he stepped onto the field, he knew he had to make some tough decisions.

A Fork in the Road

“I came to a fork in the road where I had to decide if I was going to play college soccer or not.  I decided to give it a go despite the fact that my knee was not healed.  I chose Nebraska Wesleyan because of the opportunity to play college soccer, as well as attend an excellent college known for its Biology/Pre-Medicine program,” said Kyle.

“Over the summer, leading into my freshman year, I did a ton of physical therapy and got to the point where I could play soccer without a brace.  I managed to get through my freshman season, but I had knee problems throughout it all.  I couldn’t fully sprint or shoot the ball with my left foot because it hurt too much. I had so much laxity in my knee it was like Laffy Taffy. At the end of the season, the doctors in Lincoln then diagnosed it as a Grade 3 PCL tear.”

Frustrated, while Kyle had his diagnosis, he still didn’t have a game plan to fix it. “I saw two very reputable surgeons in my area and when I asked them, ‘how often do you do this kind of surgery?’ both of their responses were nearly identical and I could tell that the question made them seriously uncomfortable, both admitting that they only perform PCL surgery a couple of times per year.”

Kyle knew that surgery was his only option, but he also knew that he wanted someone with experience to perform it.  He did some soul searching and thought about his favorite soccer team, Manchester United.

“I remember reading an article during the summer going into my freshman year of college about one of their players, Owen Hargreaves, who had suffered a knee injury and was sent to The Steadman Clinic in Colorado.  I remember thinking back to that article and right then and there I thought to myself that if he was willing to go there for treatment, then maybe they could help me out too,” said Kyle.

Kyle admits he was unsure of how to proceed because he assumed that The Steadman Clinic was only for professional and elite athletes. However, he also knew that the only way he was going to continue his soccer career, was through a successful surgery. Without giving it another thought, he phoned the office of Dr. Robert LaPrade, landed an appointment, and shortly after was making the long trip to see him.

After doing a thorough exam, Dr. LaPrade confirmed the PCL tear as a grade 3, but additionally, something that the other orthopaedic surgeons did not see, was that Kyle also had a popliteus tendon tear with meniscus damage.  It was then that Kyle knew he would have Dr. LaPrade repair his knee and for the first time in a long time had hope that he would be able to have a playing career again.

The Surgery and Recovery

December 28th 2010, Kyle traveled back to Vail for his surgery. Dr. LaPrade performed a double-bundle PCL reconstruction, popliteus tendon repair, and corrected the meniscal injury by shaving about 5% of Kyle’s meniscus.  Following surgery, Kyle remained in Vail for a week where he worked with Dr. LaPrade’s physical therapists; he then went home where he was required to stay on crutches with no weight bearing for about six weeks. He continued therapy for weeks (nine months total), and was fitted for a knee brace specifically made for PCL tears that he was to wear during the same duration.

soccer1Today, Kyle is two years post-op and is in the middle of his junior at Wesleyan, starting for his college team, playing in every single game, and feeling stronger and better than ever, without any problems, pain, or limitations. “It’s mind boggling to think about where I was, and where I am now. The anxiety and stress I had because of my knee kept me awake at night.”

“I cannot stress enough how every single person affiliated with Dr. LaPrade has helped me through this experience. His team of nurses, physical therapists, his assistant, Amanda, they all gave me hope right from the start and made me feel so welcome when I was there. Dr. LaPrade’s Physician Assistant  was by my side always, throughout my journey.  He was an awesome sounding board for me, always answering questions and offering support. I believe that they treat everyone with the same 100% care that they extend to any celebrity or professional athlete,” said Kyle.

He concludes by saying, “Most of all, I would like to thank Dr. LaPrade for everything he did for me.  As an aspiring physician (possibly orthopaedics), Dr. LaPrade is exactly everything I want to be in a physician.  If I reach my medical school goals further down the road, then I can only hope that I am like Dr. LaPrade.”

“Dr. LaPrade extended such a personal touch with me when I was in Vail.  Last year I did a research paper on the emotional and mental effects of knee injuries.  There was one quote that I remember that truly struck home with me in regards to Dr. LaPrade: “Immediately my guard was down and I was at ease with this man. I knew here and now that this man was the man whom I trusted to cut me open and fix my leg, that this was the man who could save my career. Dr. LaPrade is the absolute best in the business and I will always be grateful for him.”