Athletic careers can start as young as when a child learns to walk, and they become even more important and competitive as the years go on. Once you get to high school and you are playing this sport that you love, you look to play at the next level. Emma Utterback, the star point guard at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana, had this dream, but an injury could have changed the direction of the high school player's future.
Sidelined To Star
It was June 2017, and the Center Grove point guard was scheduled to play at four important college showcase basketball tournaments in front of college coaches who were there to scout and recruit future players.
Utterback had her heart set on earning a scholarship and a spot on a college basketball team's roster. But acute Achilles tendonitis had her sidelined.
"I couldn’t even jog, much less practice or play," said Utterback.
Thanks to specialized training and Franciscan Health Indianapolis Sports Medicine physical therapist Jeevan Pandya, Utterback played in all four tournaments.
Even better, she recently began her first season with her new teammates at the University of Vermont, where she's attending and playing basketball on a full-ride scholarship. Last week, Utterback was named the American East Conference’s Rookie of the Week.
"If it wasn't for the physical therapy help I got from Franciscan, I'm not sure I would be living my college athletic dream now," said Utterback.
Utterback is one of the thousands of student-athletes and active adults benefiting from specialized training at Franciscan Health Sports Medicine programs in Indianapolis, Crown Point and Lafayette, Indiana.
Franciscan Health Sports Medicine programs focus on the same concepts: improving strength, flexibility and agility to help athletes return-to-play after injuries, improve performance and reduce the risk for injuries.
Specialized Rehabilitation Returns Players To Game
Sports medicine focus on improving strength, flexibility and agility to help athletes return-to-play after injuries, improving overall sports performance and reducing the risk for injuries. Participation in a sports medicine training program begins with an evaluation.
Franciscan Health physical therapists and athletic trainers use a series of functional movement screening activities to identify problems. Weak muscles, poor flexibility and control and balance problems can contribute to conditions like tendonitis and knee pain and put athletes at risk for devastating knee injuries such as ACL tears.
Based on a patient's screening results, the Franciscan Health sports medicine team develops individualized training programs and exercises.
"Weak hip and gluteal muscles, along with weak ankle muscles from numerous sprains, were the culprits for Utterback’s problem," said Jeevan Pandya DPT, a physical therapist at Franciscan Health Indianapolis Sports Medicine, who then developed a personalized program of exercises using strength bands and body weight, along with exercises that focused on improving her jumping and landing mechanics.
After six or more weeks of daily training with the physical therapist or athletic trainer and at home, athletes complete the functional movement screening again.
The athletic trainer or physical therapist can then measure improvement and determine if the patient is ready to return-to-play.
"After a month of daily training at home and twice a week with me, screening results showed that Utterback was good to play and she has been injury-free ever since," said Dr. Pandya.
The training Utterback received at Franciscan allowed her to get back on the court. She is currently attending and playing basketball on a full-ride scholarship at the University of Vermont.
"If it wasn't for the physical therapy help I got from Franciscan, I’m not sure I would be living my college athletic dream now," said Utterback.
Athletic Training Aims To Prevent Many Sports Injuries
High school athletes account for an estimated 2 million injuries and 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year and Utterback became one of these numbers.
According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable, but 62 percent of organized sports-related injuries occur during practice. Craig Voll, PhD, PT, Franciscan Health Lafayette Sports Medicine manager, said athletic trainers also educate coaches and players on the correct way to stretch and warm-up, which helps prevent injuries.
"Because our athletic trainers are with athletes every day, they're constantly identifying weaknesses athletes have," said Voll. "Whether it's to return-to-play or to prevent injuries, they can provide athletes the sport-specific exercises they need."
Whether you're training or recovering, get the facts on sports medicine. Download our free sports medicine guide.