An exercise science major at the University of Kansas, Sophie Lawrence also is a member of the school’s highly athletic dance team, Rock Chalk Dance. The popular group performs at football, basketball and other KU sporting events.
But an accident while on a ski trip in Colorado over semester break benched the college student recently, resulting in surgery and months of physical therapy.
“It was Jan. 1, and a friend and I were skiing down a green trail at Beaver Creek when suddenly, I saw a group of people on the path,” Sophie said.
Sophie admits she’s an inexperienced skier, and not one to take risks, so she wasn’t sure what her next move should be.
“I needed to veer left to avoid them, but when I did, my left ski caught an edge. The right side of my body went one way, and my left the other. When I fell, I heard and felt a ‘pop.’ I knew immediately that I had done something to my left leg,” she said.
Unable to move her leg or stand, ski patrol helped Sophie to the base of the mountain. Then she was taken to a nearby emergency room where a doctor delivered the bad news.
“The doctor said I had broken my tibial eminence, that I wasn’t going to be able to do much for the next three to six months, and that I probably needed surgery right away if I ever wanted to dance again.”
The tibial eminence is also known as the tibial spine. It’s the tibial attachment of the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. The mechanism of injury is thought to be an internal twisting rotation force of the shin bone with a flexed knee, like when Sophie was trying to turn her skis to avoid the group.
With her mind reeling from the diagnosis, Sophie said all she could think was, “You must have the wrong person. This cannot be happening.”
Unfortunately, it was. Sophie immediately contacted her family in Kansas City and her dance team coach to let them know about the injury. Wearing a brace to stabilize her left leg, she flew home on Jan. 2. The next day, she saw Donna Pacicca, MD, Children’s Mercy pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
“Dr. Pacicca was great,” Sophie said. “After meeting her, I was completely satisfied that I was in the right place to get the help I needed to get better.”
After more testing, Dr. Pacicca confirmed Sophie’s diagnosis, adding that she would need two screws placed in her knee to repair the break.
On Jan. 7, Dr. Pacicca performed the successful outpatient operation that put Sophie’s left knee back together, but she also found additional swelling in her ACL and meniscus.
“Originally, Dr. Pacicca thought I would be able to walk with crutches right away, but because of the swelling, she recommended I stay off my left leg for six weeks,” Sophie said.