Tyler’s Physical Therapy Story

Rehabilitation Center
“I was excited for my last year of high school basketball and baseball.”

As a senior in high school, Tyler was excited for his final year on the Willmar boys’ basketball team. He never imagined an injury would cut his season short and take away his chance to play his favorite sport, baseball. Working with athletic trainer Jessica Slavik, Tyler was striving to overcome his injury and get back into his Cardinal’s jersey one last time.

It was the sixth game of the season when the Cardinals traveled to Fergus Falls to take on Otters. During the game, Tyler jumped up for a rebound when he felt something “pop” in his knee. Tyler went to the bench, not realizing the severity of his injury. He taped up his knee and headed back onto the court to finish the game.

“I didn’t think my injury was that bad right away.”

But when Tyler returned to practice the next day, he knew something wasn’t right. He was experiencing swelling in his knee and minor stiffness but nothing Tyler didn’t think he could play through. “I tried to practice but the coaches could tell I wasn’t 100%,” he remembered. “That’s when Jessica suggested that I go and get an MRI taken on my knee.”

The results of Tyler’s MRI revealed just how serious the “pop” he heard had been. A complete tear of his ACL. “Tyler is a strong kid and he is someone who I didn’t think would tear an ACL,” Jessica explained. “It wasn’t something I was expecting just because of how hard he works in the gym and in the weight room.”

“I knew I had to focus on getting better.” Tyler squatting with a weight while provider monitors.

As a senior, the report of a season-ending injury was devastating. Hesitant to share the news with her son, Tyler’s mom Patti enlisted Jessica to help break the news to her son. “I called Jessica with the results and had her come with me to tell Tyler,” Patti said. “As his mom it was tough for me and I just didn’t know if I could be the one to tell him.”

Jessica admits that telling Tyler about his injury was difficult for her as well. “He had a lot of potential his senior year in terms of basketball and baseball, so it was hard to crush his dreams in that way,” Jessica explained. “But it felt good knowing that I could reassure him that this wasn’t the end of the world and we would get him back to where he was.”

Even though his high school basketball career had ended and his baseball season was unlikely, Tyler still had college athletics to prepare for. Prior to his injury, Tyler decided he would continue playing both football and baseball at St. John’s University. “It was upsetting right away but eventually I just realized I needed to get over it and focus on getting better,” Tyler said.

“I was surprised how quickly I could start exercising.”

With his diagnosis, Tyler underwent surgery in January to repair his torn ACL and prepared to begin rehabilitation. He started with three visits per week to ACMC’s physical therapist Ryan Hebrink and worked with Jessica at the high school during practice. With a goal of returning for summer baseball, Tyler and his therapy team worked on range of motion and rebuilding the strength he had lost in his knee.

At the beginning of the process, Tyler remembers how much difficultly he had with exercises, specifically on the stationary bike. In the first couple weeks, Tyler could only peddle a little bit both directions so when he hit his first major milestone he was excited. “One day I sat down and the peddle went all the way around for the first time,” Tyler recalled. “I just remember thinking how did that just happen. There was a lot of those moments where the day before you couldn’t do it and then suddenly I could.”

“I am starting to appreciate all the hard work I’ve put in.”Tyler riding a stationary bike

As Tyler’s recovery progressed, Jessica got him back into more sports specific exercises to prepare him for college athletics. “With the rehab that we do at ACMC, we get those athletes back to where they were before their injuries, if not at an even higher level,” she said. “Our physical therapy and athletic training departments work together to communicate what is best for our patients’ recovery.”

Now with very little pain and his range of motion nearly restored, Tyler is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. “When I get back to normal, I will appreciate all the therapy and hard work I had to put in,” Tyler explained.

“I know with Jessica’s help, I’ll be able to play again soon.”

Tyler acknowledges Jessica for providing support and direction during his rehabilitation. “She always makes me feel like she has time for me, even though there are so many athletes she works with,” Tyler said. “Jessica makes time to give you the one-on-one experience you need.”

Although it has been difficult for Tyler to miss his senior year of athletics, he looks forward to the future and is eager to see what he can do once he gets back on the field. “It’s hard to see it right now but I know I’ll be able to play again soon and it will all pay off,” Tyler said. “I’ll never take the game for granted again.”