'Worst pain I've felt:' New Shriners' approach to treating children's sports injuries aims to get young athletes moving again
Kendall Horn played sports every day as a teenager.
She was an all-star basketball and soccer player for Kuper Academy in Kirkland on Montreal's West Island, figure skated, and played hockey.
Then, when she was 15 years old, she tore her ACL playing soccer.
"It was definitely heartbreaking," she said. "Worst pain I've felt."
Horn was determined to get better and worked for years to get back on her feet, playing any sport she could. She knew however that healing from her injury would be a long journey.
"It's not only physical; it's psychologically traumatic," she said.
A new team working out of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Canada (SHC-Canada) wants to get young people like Horn, who injured themselves, back on their feet and running as fast and efficiently as possible.
"We prioritize the individual, not just the injury, recognizing that injuries have a significant impact on various aspects of a young patient's life," said director of sports medicine Dr. Thierry Pauyo, director of Sports Medicine.
Pauyo is part of the Shriners' new interdisciplinary team based in Montreal that will work to treat any adolescent or child who has been injured while active. It could be a torn ACL while playing competitive basketball or a pulled muscle while playing catch with their father, according to the Shriners communications team.
A doctor's referral isn't required to see a specialist, and the complete care system includes not just orthopedic surgeons specialized in sports medicine but also nurse practitioners, sports psychologists, nutritionists, rehabilitation specialists, and social workers.
Pauyo is an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist and said the team works to tailor care in a collaborative approach. The teams also support the families of those children who have been injured.
The team is also working to connect with sports teams and clubs, schools and rehab clinics to assist in recoveries.
"The purpose is to follow children and teens after injury to ensure they continue to receive the rehabilitation and transition they need to successfully return to play and sport," said SHC-Canada administrator Jacques Boissonneault.
The hospital said around 60 million North American children and teens are active in sports, which, though positive, has also led to a rise in sports injuries. As an example, the hospital said ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries nearly doubled for active teens in the past two decades and that only around 65 per cent of those return to their level of play.
Horn and her family found a surgeon, got fitted for a knee brace, built muscle around the knee prior to surgery, had the surgery and then began physiotherapy.
The Shriners' team wants to make sure athletes like Horn can return to the fields, rinks, courts or pitches they were on before suffering injuries.
Many children are not as motivated as her or do not have the resources or support networks needed for a full recovery.
Quitting sports was not an option, Horn said.
She returned to action within a year of surgery and graduated high school after continuing her soccer and basketball career while also running track and playing quarterback for Kuper's flag football team.
"I was very determined to get better," she said. "Being active and playing sports is a huge aspect of my life."