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Surgery, Physical Therapy and Performance Training Makes All The Difference For College Bound Soccer Player

Elle Ervin of Bloomfield Hills was only four years old when her first soccer coach noticed her potential and suggested that she should play club soccer.

Now in her senior year at Marian High School, the center forward soccer standout has made notable achievements along the way, including earning first team All-State honors at Marian High School her freshman and sophomore year, while also being a key player her freshman year that led to the team’s state championship. At a club level, Elle was selected to the first team Midwest all-conference in the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) league.

Despite playing soccer at a competitive level for several years, Elle considered herself lucky that she did not experience any major injuries. During a regional high school game in June of her sophomore year in 2022 that luck changed.

“As I was jumping in the air for the ball and turning, I lost my awareness in the air and came down on my right leg and collapsed. Although the pain was not excruciating, I definitely knew something was wrong, but was not quite sure what the issue was.”

Elle was able to walk off the field and even did some light jogging to see if she could shake it off but did not get back on the field to resume play.

Right place at the right time

Elle’s mother Lori, a former physical therapist, recalls that although the injury was worrisome, she became quickly impressed with the coordination of care that would take place from the Henry Ford Sports Medicine team that started as soon as her daughter was injured on the field.

“As soon as Elle was injured, she was evaluated by Henry Ford Athletic Trainer Dawn Thrasher, who works onsite with athletes at Marian High School. The injury took place in the evening and Dawn was able to secure an appointment with sports medicine physician Ramsey Shehab, M.D. at 8 a.m. the next morning,” says Lori. “We would come to find out the unbelievable coordination of care provided through Henry Ford Health is second to none.”

Lori says Dr. Shehab suspected that Elle had sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. The ACL, one of the strong bands of tissue that helps connect the thigh bone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia), is prone to injury during sports when there are sudden stops or changes in direction. An MRI confirmed the ACL tear, and a diagnosis was confirmed within 24 hours.

Lori explains that within five days, Elle was evaluated for surgery by Vasilios Bill Moutzouros, M.D., chief of Sports Medicine at Henry Ford Health.

“We were so impressed when we met him. His demeanor and his expertise at treating high level athletes was important,” says Lori.

During this time, Elle who had her sights set on playing soccer in college, was devastated and worried at how her injury might impact her ability to play in college. This was all occurring five days before the recruiting portal for college prospects was opened.

Surgery to repair the tear

In July of 2022, Dr. Moutzouros performed the ACL reconstruction with meniscal repair to restore knee strength and function. The repair involves reconstructing the damaged ACL with the patient’s patellar tendon, which helps stabilize the kneecap. He said this is the first in a series of steps needed to get Elle back to playing soccer.

“An ACL tear can be a common occurrence in soccer players,” says Dr. Moutzouros. “Post-surgery, soccer players like Elle require intensive physical therapy to regain the range of motion and strength of their knee. They also require a sport specific progression often with performance training to be able to return to the same level of sport that they had prior to the injury.”

Elle said make no mistake, the pain after surgery was difficult, but she was determined to work hard for several months with physical therapists at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine to get back in shape to play competitively.

The road to return to sport and great news

Although Elle was justifiably worried at what the injury might mean for her goal of playing college soccer, those fears quickly subsided when she received an offer to play for the University of Michigan when she enrolls in the fall of 2024.

Lori knew it was now more important than ever for Elle to continue with the physical therapy team, including Dave Tomsich and Kelly Weir who she describes as a critical piece of Elle’s recovery. It was also important for Elle to participate in Henry Ford Health’s Sports Performance Program.

Jenny Burnham, athletic trainer and sports performance coordinator for Henry Ford Health, explains that when going through the recovery period after a surgery or injury, the body becomes deconditioned and needs time to get back not only its strength and mobility, but its endurance as well to return to sport safely.

Our program continues the gains made in physical therapy and focuses on increasing the intensity of our sessions by adding advanced plyometrics, strengthening exercises and speed/agility drills that mimic sport related movements. This allows the injured body part, time to adapt to the increased demands in training and gives the body time to adjust as well,” she says.

Jenny adds that with Elle, the initial focus was on safe loading and landing mechanics with jumping. Training then progressed by adding sport specific movements and helping improve her cardiovascular endurance and lower extremity and core strength.

“During our sessions, we often talked about what the focus of the exercise was, why we are focusing on this particular area, and how to do this exercise at home. The program helped make her transition smooth when she started practicing with her team again, minimizing potential setbacks from lacking strength or endurance,” says Jenny.

As Elle transitioned from physical therapy to the sports performance program, Lori says the continued therapy and conditioning made Elle feel confident that it was safe to return to soccer at the end of April 2023.

She says that despite the long commute from Bloomfield Hills to Detroit that the family endured for 10 months, the quality of care was more important than the convenience.

“As a physical therapist I feel that the clinical model of how Henry Ford treats patients is top notch. It was worth it for Elle to get the exceptional care and coordination of treatment from a health system that truly knows how to manage sports injuries.”

For Elle who hopes to play professionally one day, she looks forward to wearing the maize and blue as she achieves her college dream after exceptional hard work on the field and off during her post surgery therapy, conditioning and training.

“I’m so thankful to the Henry Ford team who I was so incredibly impressed with. They were not only nice but took the time to get to know me and knew when to push me, while also knowing my limits. I just think they did a really good job of getting me back in shape.”

Have a sports injury? Visit henryford.com/sports and request an appointment with one of our sports medicine experts today.

For more information on how the Henry Ford Sports Performance program can help you or your athlete, visit henryford.com/sportsperformance or call (313) 651-1917 to request an appointment.


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