Grace and Perseverance: Basketball Star Doesn’t Let ACL Injury Derail Historic Pursuit

Grace–an all-state basketball player for LaSalle Academy–was just shy of 1,000 points and eyeing a high school championship when disaster struck. 

During a playoff game, the junior went for a layup when she heard something pop. She fell to the ground in pain. Confirming her worst fears, Grace learned she tore her ACL.

“I was definitely in shock. Definitely crying.”

Instead of giving up, she sought help from University Orthopedics Sports Medicine Surgeon Dr. Michael Hulstyn.

“For an athlete of Grace’s caliber, who wants to return to a high level of activity, surgery is really the only option,” Dr. Hulstyn said.

Together, they decided on a plan that would allow Grace to return to the court for her senior year. That plan included pre-operative physical therapy, surgery, and then post-operative surgery.

“I knew I’d have to work hard to get back to where I wanted to be,” Grace said.

After Dr. Hulstyn repaired the knee, Grace and her physical therapy team went to work.

Dr. Hulstyn said the rehab team often helps fill a void for student-athletes who are separated from their teammates and may feel isolated during recovery.

“My physical therapy team was the best. They always had jokes. It was like social hour going to physical therapy,” Grace said.

Not only did she return to the basketball court her senior year, Grace sunk her 1,000th career point, was a finalist for Gatorade Player of the Year, was featured on Channel 12’s Hometown Hero, and was named First Team All-State for the second year in a row.

“Grace was always looking at next steps. When you’re working all along, it makes it much easier to return to that level of play,” Dr. Hulstyn said.

“They definitely motivated me to get back and pushed me where I needed to be,” Grace said.

Dr. Hulstyn treats all types of injuries, specializing in shoulder and knee disorders. He treats patients of all ages, including professional, amateur, and recreational athletes. While he performs surgical procedures using replacement ligaments and transferring donor tissues, Dr. Hulstyn is also researching how the body can improve its ability to heal without having to replace or remove torn cartilage or ligaments.