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Friends, roommates, teammates and now physical therapy partners

USWNR Orthopedics

Softball players Kia Boyd and Aubrey Smith endured a long road to shoulder recoveries, but had each other for encouragement during their rehab together at the Children’s Mercy Sports Medicine clinic.

Kia is originally from Kansas City, met Aubrey in Fort Scott, where they both play softball at Fort Scott Community College. Kia didn’t have a specific position, but is a utility player, floated wherever she was needed.

“I pitch, I play middle infield, outfield, wherever my coach tells me to go, I go,” Kia said.

Kia’s shoulder started hurting during her freshman season and she began physical therapy in Fort Scott; however, after six months and no progress, she knew she needed a second opinion. 

“After I wasn’t seeing any improvement, I went and got a second opinion from Dr. Greg Canty and he recommended I start physical therapy here at Children’s Mercy. I saw a lot of improvement and have been coming here ever since," Kia said.

Kia's road to recovery

Kia built her confidence and strength up before being released by her physical therapist Nicole Hogan, but unfortunately had a flare-up after the first of the year once college pre-season workouts started. 

“It got to the point where it hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep at night," Kia said.

Since then, Kia has been working once a week at the Children’s Mercy Blue Valley Sports Medicine clinic with Nicole and is working hard to keep her pain under control for the next softball season, which just recently started.

“Right now I’m just trying to have my pain under control because it’s really painful when I get flare-ups. I still have all my strength, but pain management is key right now. And Nicole, she’s awesome. I owe all of it to her,” Kia said.

Kia has been instructed to not lift overhead anymore because that ultimately was a contributing factor to her shoulder injury last year. She plans to stay in physical therapy through the softball season for close monitor of her right shoulder signs and symptoms to increased softball activities and play this spring. 

Aubrey, from Yates Center, KS, tore her labrum during her freshman year. 

“The doctor told me it was from overuse and around the end of the season it got to the point where I couldn’t move it,” Aubrey said.

She had an MRI done in Fort Scott and was simply told to take it easy. 

“I went home and continued to rest because I didn’t think anything was wrong with it, but three months later, in the summer, it was still hurting so obviously something was wrong,” Aubrey said.

Aubrey proceeded to get a second opinion and another MRI where she then found out her labrum was torn and had been since the beginning. 

Aubrey's improvement

After having her first MRI misread, she underwent surgery in July to have the torn part of her labrum shaved off. 

“From there I did some rehab down where I’m from and that’s when Kia told me about the Children’s Mercy clinic where she had been going,” Aubrey said. “I kind of hit a wall when I first started doing therapy and wasn’t improving, so after Kia told me about Nicole, I decided to come here and I’ve improved immensely. I’ve been here since the beginning of December and it’s been uphill ever since. It’s been really great.”

When Aubrey first started working with Nicole, she was doing very basic table stretching exercises to loosen her shoulder and then moved on to strengthening exercises with 1lb weights and now is up to 5lb-10lb weights.

The softball season is just beginning and Aubrey plans to continue her therapy with Nicole to keep a steady pace of improvement. However, her softball career is likely coming to a close.

“This will probably be my last season. I want to be an engineer at K-State and they don’t have a program. I know I will be really busy so this will probably be it for me,” Aubrey Smith said.

“As soon as you start to feel any sort of pain, whether it’s in your shoulder or your elbow, that’s your first sign that something may be wrong and there could be a type of injury," Dr. Nicole Hogan said.

A plan of action

Hogan said this is the point in which an individual would want to modify their activity, begin significantly decreasing the amount of pitches he or she is throwing or see a doctor. 

“In softball, even though you’re not necessarily throwing overhand off of the mound, you’re still going in an overhand position at the top of the windmill motion during pitching,” Dr. Nicole Hogan said.

Hogan said a general rule of thumb would be some light dynamic before you throw, whether that’s dynamic stretching, full body movement, arm circles, arm hugs or a specific pre throw band routine. Dynamic stretching and proper warm-up not only increases flexibility, but also aids in coordination and balance, allowing the athlete to focus on precision, rhythm and stability. She said after you throw it’s important to do static stretching, which can help with, flexibility, as well as basic strengthening to keep your muscles activated.

“Imagine rubbing a shoe string over a brick. If you rub that shoe string too many times, eventually that shoe string starts to fray. That’s the same way overuse in the shoulder occurs. Eventually, once you do a movement too many times, you start to see fraying and structural changes inside the joint,” Dr. Nicole Hogan said.

Hogan said the first signs that something could be wrong are shoulder popping, clicking or catching, especially if painful or affecting your performance.

“Be smart and listen to your body if you start to feel pain. Pain isn’t a normal response and it means that something could be wrong. Let your parents and coaches know. Don’t be silent so that way you can take the proper steps to making sure it doesn’t get too bad to where you have to stop or you’re out for an extended period of time,” Dr. Nicole Hogan said.