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news News Monday, June 1, 2020 Monday, June 1, 2020 1:16 PM - Monday, June 1, 2020 1:16 PM

Elias: Nothing is going to stop him

Elias: Nothing is going to stop him

In mid-February, while competing in a long jump event at the Massachusetts Indoor Track and Field State Championships, 17-year-old Elias, from West Springfield, Massachusetts, felt a fateful “pop” in his right knee.

The pain was instant. Unable to walk, Elias had to be carried off the field by one of his teammates. The competition he had worked so hard for all season was now cut short.

“I was worried I might never return to sports,” recalled Elias. In addition to track and field, the all-around athlete is also an explosive defensive end on the football field and has dreams of playing in college.

“Elias has been playing sports since he was 10 years old,” said his mother, Tabitha. “In many ways, it has shaped him into the young man he is today. To see him in pain and worried that he may lose that important part of his life today and dream for the future was heartbreaking.”

Upon evaluation, Elias’s pediatrician recommended he seek orthopaedic specialty care at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield. Orthopaedic surgeon Ahmad F. Bayomy, M.D., medical director of the hospital’s sports health and medicine program, first met Elias in late February, 10 days after the injury. Imaging confirmed he had a meniscal tear in his knee and needed surgery to repair it.

“Meniscus tears can occur in athletes with an acute knee injury,” explained Dr. Bayomy. “Elias’s exam showed a ‘locked knee,’ in which there is an injury blocking the knee’s full range of motion.”

On March 17, Dr. Bayomy performed arthroscopic knee surgery on EIias. By April 1, the athlete was ready to begin four to six months of outpatient rehabilitative therapy at the Springfield Shriners Hospital.

But the world had drastically changed in that short span of time due to the COVID-19 virus. To reduce the risk of transmission, Massachusetts was under strict stay-at-home directives. All health care procedures and appointments were postponed, unless deemed essential to the patient’s health outcome.

“It was my recommendation that Elias continue his care plan and begin supervised physical therapy and home exercises after surgery to help facilitate a complete recovery,” said Dr. Bayomy. “Therapy would help reduce the risk of knee stiffness, improve swelling, and gradually retrain Elias’s muscles and whole body to move in a coordinated, strong way so that he could be ready for a full, safe return to sports.”

“We felt very comfortable with this plan after surgery,” said Tabitha. “I knew Elias would be safe coming here.”

And so, twice a week, Elias works with the physical therapy team. “We make sure all safety precautions are taken to protect him and our staff,” said Denise M. Gloekler, PT, D.P.T., PCS, cNDT, director of rehabilitation, motion analysis, and sports health and medicine. “Each day, upon entering the building, Elias is screened for coronavirus symptoms; he wears a mask like the staff and maintains social distances when possible.”

About a month into his therapy, Elias was amazed when he was able to unlock his knee brace, put a full amount of weight on his knee and bend his entire leg. “I couldn’t believe it!” he said. “It was such a relief to be able to stretch and move my leg again.”

Tabitha expressed her gratitude for the care her son is receiving during this unprecedented time. “My son wouldn’t be where he is today without Dr. Bayomy, the physical therapists and everyone else at Shriners Hospital who make sacrifices so he can receive amazing care despite all that is going on. Elias’s goal is to be back on the football field next year for his senior year of high school and go on to play collegiate football. Thanks to you, his dreams can come true.”

Elias on the football field