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Role Reversal

High School Athletic Trainer Overcomes Injury With Help From NorthShore Orthopaedic Surgeon

Brian Robinson has dedicated his career to helping high school athletes stay fit for competition or safely recover following an injury. Robinson’s role as head athletic trainer at Glenbrook South High School for the past 35 years has kept him on his toes—physically and mentally. So, when a severe knee injury sidelined him for the 2009 football season, Robinson experienced a role reversal.

Robinson’s injuries were similar to those of most high school athletes—unexpected and ill-timed. He lost control of his bicycle during an early morning bike ride, and to steady himself, put his left foot down—hard. His leg bent out to the side. “I thought I had just torn my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament, one of four ligaments supporting the knee),” Robinson said.

His wife picked him up, and en route to NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital, Robinson called a trusted, experienced physician: NorthShore-affiliated orthopaedic surgeon Eric Chehab, MD. Dr. Chehab has been the Glenbrook South team physician since 2006, and he and Robinson are on the field together for every football game.

At the Glenbrook Hospital Emergency Department, Robinson got an X-ray, and using NorthShore’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system, Dr. Chehab viewed the results remotely. “He made a definitive diagnosis right there,” Robinson recalled.

Robinson’s injury was worse than he had expected. He had shattered his tibial plateau, the shinbone’s upper surface responsible for the knee’s load-bearing capabilities, and had torn two knee ligaments.

“The tibial plateau is the knee’s foundation,” said Dr. Chehab, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “Everything rests upon it.” While the torn ligaments healed without surgery, Dr. Chehab had to surgically rebuild Robinson’s tibial plateau using a bone graft to augment the shattered bone and applying a metal locking plate to support and hold the reconstructed plateau together.

After surgery, the rehabilitation process—which Robinson and Dr. Chehab have supervised for many of their injured athletes—began. Robinson couldn’t put any weight on his knee for six weeks, and then only partial weight for six more. “Rehabilitation is difficult, but Brian needed to get back in the game, just like his athletes,” said Dr. Chehab. “He was diligent about his physical therapy.”

“For injured students who wonder if they can do what they did before an injury, I can tell them that they’ll be fine,” Robinson added. “Today, I’m happily back to where I was before my injury.”

To learn more about NorthShore’s advanced orthopaedic and sports medicine, please call 855.929.0100 or request a consultation online.