Gena Hensel, Physical Therapy Patient

Gena Hensel - Midland, MI

"I had to get past being afraid. Derick gave me the guidance and confidence I needed to get through it."

Physical Therapy Helps Young Athlete Get Back on the Court

When 15-year-old Gena Hensel, a member of the Midland Dow High School girls volleyball team, took a tumble in gym class and hurt her knee, no one suspected that the damage was severe. "They thought she would be fine and back to her sport after a few weeks," said her mother, Sara. "I was not convinced. After a week, we saw an orthopedic surgeon who ordered an MRI."

The scan showed that Gena had torn her anterior cruciate ligament – the ACL, one of the four main ligaments within the knee. She would need complete reconstruction surgery and months of physical therapy if she wanted to regain her previous ability.

When Gena underwent surgery on November 20, 2015, she had already been in physical therapy for a month. "I had to get strong before surgery," she said. Physical Therapist Derick Roland, P.T., D.P.T., helped her get there. "At first, I was really rattled but Derick helped me get through the mental block."

While the surgery was successful, Gena was in a lot of pain. She also experienced an uncomfortable, but not uncommon, complication that required neuromuscular electrical stimulation therapy on her thigh muscle.

Her mom said that it was a lot for a 15-year-old to handle. "It was hard for her to go from being very fit and active to being barely able to walk," Sara said. "I'm glad she had a wonderful therapist; Gena felt very comfortable with him. Derick let her have her bad days, but he pushed her when she was up to it."

Derick specializes in working with young athletes. He said the physical therapy plans he creates for his clients are research-based and follow the most up-to-date recommendations and rehabilitation methods. "With ACL recovery plans in particular, we follow a very specific protocol," he said. "We go slowly and step-by-step."

The plan Derick prescribed was developed by the Sports Medicine Focus Group, a group of physical and occupational therapists, athletic trainers and physicians at MidMichigan Health. Derick, a member of the Focus Group, said they concentrate on the unique rehabilitation needs of athletes. They design sport-specific rehabilitation protocols, educate patients and other health care workers, and work to develop better patient care for their target population.

Building Gena's confidence was crucial to her recovery. "Right after surgery, when they were measuring how far I could bend and extend my leg, I was afraid," she said. "I was afraid to bend my leg or let anyone touch it. I was afraid the incision would open; I was afraid of pain. Derick understood that and he helped me get past it. He'd tell me, 'You can do it,' and he helped me push through it. I'd recommend him to anyone."

Derick said Gena's fear is very typical. "Most people are apprehensive of therapy at first, especially when we're dealing with something like an ACL tear," he said. "Gena, however, was also very motivated and very compliant because she wanted to get back to volleyball."

"I had to re-learn everything," she said. "I had to learn how to run, how to jump. I wanted to baby my leg but in volleyball, I have to dive and jump so I had to get past being afraid. Derick gave me the guidance and confidence I needed to get through it."

Gena was committed to her recovery program even though daily exercise sessions and twice weekly therapy sessions were physically and emotionally difficult at times. "It was a lot of hard work, but I tell people you can do it if you put your mind to it," she said.

When Gena had a month of physical therapy remaining, Derick moved to a new practice in Harrison. "We followed him to his new office," Sara said. "We drove up twice a week. We'd do it again, too. After months of therapy, she can jump and play volleyball again."

In fact, Sara believes that physical therapy is the reason her daughter was back on the volleyball court in only seven months. "She had to put in a lot of hard work, but Gena wouldn't be where she is without therapy. Derick believed in her and helped her believe in herself."

Physical Therapist Derick Roland, P.T., D.P.T., is currently welcoming new outpatient rehabilitation patients at MidMichigan Health Park - Harrison. Those who would like more information about becoming a patient may contact (989) 539-8701.

The goal of MidMichigan Health's Rehabilitation Program is to help patients achieve the highest possible degree of independence after an injury, illness or disability. Convenient appointments are offered at 16 outpatient locations across the region. Inpatient rehabilitation is also available for more complex conditions such as stroke, head injuries and spinal cord injuries. Those who would like more information may visit www.midmichigan.org/rehabilitation.

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