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Roundball Rebound

"Love of the Game" Inspires Orthopaedic Surgeon and Her Patients

When NorthShore-affiliated orthopaedic surgeon Amy Jo Ptaszek, MD, cheered on her patient Megan Fasanella and the Elgin Community College women’s basketball team earlier this month, it had special significance. It marked a return to the game for Fasanella following ankle surgery in January 2012. Watching patients heal and return to their sport is one of the professional rewards Dr. Ptaszek enjoys.

“I love all sports,” said Dr. Ptaszek, who specializes in foot and ankle surgery and holds an academic title at the Pritzker School of Medicine. She plays indoor soccer and cheers on her sons at their athletic events. She has even developed and patented a specialized soccer cleat. Her enthusiasm, coupled with her surgical expertise, results in a strong rapport with patients, something Fasanella sensed almost immediately upon meeting her.

Fasanella, 20, has played basketball since seventh grade. When she went away to college two years ago, she played intramural ball but missed intercollegiate play. She returned home to the northwest suburbs and received a two-year basketball scholarship to Elgin Community College, with a goal of playing Division 1 basketball. Six games into the 2011–2012 season, an ongoing ankle injury sidelined her. Ankle sprains are common in all sports, but especially in basketball, volleyball, soccer and football.

These sprains happen when the ankle rolls outward while the sole of the foot turns inward, tearing ligaments that stabilize the ankle. Fasanella was wearing a brace but kept rolling her ankle. Surgery was the best option for her after other measures failed, recalled Dr. Ptaszek.

“Dr. Ptaszek understands how important this is for a person who wants to play like I do,” said Fasanella. “She’s very experienced. She understood the urgency. It was an easy decision to make.”

Dr. Ptaszek recommended and performeda modified Brostrom lateral ligament reconstruction. The patient’s own tissue and stretched/torn ligaments are incorporated into the repair. A suture anchor placed in the fibula (shin bone) increases the strength of the construct. “The aim of surgery is to render the athlete brace-free and protect the surrounding tendons and joint cartilage,” said Dr. Ptaszek.

Recovery typically takes four months and includes keeping weight off the ankle for up to 10 days following surgery, followed by a walking cast and then a special boot. Lateral movement is restricted for two to three months after surgery. Fasanella followed postsurgical instructions but admits to shooting some free throws in her recovery boot.

“The immediate and long-term result of this surgery is stability and protection in more than 90 percent of my patients,” said Dr. Ptaszek.

To learn more about NorthShore’s orthopaedic foot and ankle expertise, please call 855.929.0100 or request a consultation online.