featured comeback: Cameron Brosnihan
Cameron Brosnihan is one of the youngest athletes to ever experience an ACL tear. He tore his ACL playing football when he was only 9 years old. Determined to get back to playing football, he worked extremely hard throughout rehab, and made a successful comeback. Even more remarkable, he then led his team to winning the Eastern Massachusetts championship.
Be sure to check out Cameron's interview here.
Update Dec 2018 (2 years post-op):
It's hard to believe that it has been 2 years since Cameron’s ACL surgery on December 12, 2016. His mother can still remember every detail of the surgery day and the recovery. It’s still hard to believe that at the young age of 9 that he could even tear his ACL.
So how is Cameron doing today?
Cameron, now 11 years old in 6th grade has just entered middle school this year. Not only is he a top athlete, but he is also on the honor role and still playing football from the Fall season! His team went undefeated for the second year in a row winning the Eastern MA championship back to back years. They were scouted and selected to play in the National youth football tournament in New Jersey. His team pulled off a 19-18 overtime win knocking out the National Championship team from last year. They are now on their way to the football hall of fame in Canton, Ohio to play in the National Championships.
Cameron made his travel basketball team for the second year in a row as well and is balancing basketball and football at the moment. He was also cleared to play without a sports knee brace! He is so happy! His mother admits, “I was a wreck about him not having that knee brace on, but we have to go back to being ‘normal’ again. We will deal with whatever comes our way in the future”.
We are so proud of Cameron and all his accomplishments!
The following original story is told from the perspective of his "super mom", Teresa Hernandez Brosnihan:
"My 9-year old son, Cameron, started 4th grade in September 2016. His passion has always been football, and this was his 3rd year playing. He was the starting safety on the Pop Warner football team.
Sunday October 23, 2016 was a beautiful Fall day - the perfect day to play football here in Massachusetts (USA). On this day, his coach called a play to blitz. Cameron went in hard to tackle the quarterback and had his foot planted just as he got hit from behind. He didn’t expect the impact, so his planted leg twisted and he fell. The game never stopped for an injury on the field. Cameron cried in pain and just got up and hopped to the sideline with tears still streaming down his face.
When Cameron didn’t go back in the game, I was concerned, as that was out of character for him. At half time, I asked if he was okay, and he simply replied "yes". After the game, I noticed him limping, with a very swollen knee. Oddly, he had no pain. We did the usual treatments of ice, elevate, Advil and rest, and no sports (which was hard for him). A week later the swelling had reduced and we now faced his last game of the football season. Cameron said his knee felt ok and that he had no pain, and would like to try and play. I was very hesitant but we did allow him to try. After one sprint down the field he came off crying and did not return back to the game. I knew right then that something was not right. Maybe it was not just a sprained knee as I initially thought.
The next day I took him in to see his primary care doctor, who was convinced that it was just a very bad sprain. To be safe though, they suggested an orthopaedic visit. Days later we went to see the orthopedic doctor who seemed puzzled; he didn’t like the fact that knee was still swollen after 9 days, and so he ordered an MRI.
When we anxiously met with the doctor for the results, the orthopaedic doctor came in and said, “Cameron, I don’t know how you did this, but you tore your ACL.” My heart sank and my eyes filled up with tears trying not to cry. I knew what that meant to an athlete, but a 9 year old had no idea what was to come with this devastating news. He then went on to tell us that he could not help us due to the magnitude of the injury on such a young child and we had to see a specialist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA. He too was shocked and told us that Cameron was the youngest patient he had seen in his orthopedic career with a torn ACL.
The next day we were able to see an orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children’s who did confirm a complete tear of the left ACL. However, the good news was that he could be fixed using a technique called Physeal sparing ACL reconstruction. Due to his open growth plates they could not do the traditional adult ACL surgery. With this surgery they would use his own IT band as the graft and they would fix it, avoiding the growth plates entirely. He would have to be on crutches with a brace for 6 weeks. The re-tear rate was only 4% and they have mastered this surgery in young kids. We were informed that after he was healed he could return to all physical activity, including football! We had hope and faith at that point and so we set the surgery for December 12, 2016.
You can’t begin to explain to a 9 year old what the next year of his life may look like. There were a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. To go from an active 3-sport-athlete to absolutely nothing but PT was unimaginable. No more recess or gym at school and no more sports, for now. School and sports is how a 9 year old bonds with his friends. It is his life line and what defines him and how would he react to all of this being torn away so suddenly?
Surgery day came along, and we were excited to have his knee finally fixed; yet to say we were nervous and scared was an understatement. The surgery was 3 ½ hours long and was a success! Looking back, we can say that was the easy part. The next week was about controlling and managing his pain. I will never forgot one night in the wee hours of the morning, we heard the clopping noises of crutches coming down the hallway with him crying and yelling for us to help him. He awoke to excruciating pain and needed help. As I tried to calm him down and control his pain, my heart was in pieces watching this agony unfold in front of me. It was not fair. Thankfully the pain subsided around day 8.
The following days, weeks and months were spent at physical therapy. We certainly had our good, bad and ugly days. We had days of tears, days of frustration, days of anger, but we also had days of hope, days of thankfulness, days of faith, days of relief and days of happiness. We found a lot of new activities to pass the time. Robotics, cooking, art, movies, and arcades, to name a few. However, nothing was going to be as good as sports and football. He just wanted his old life back.
We did PT 3 times a week and then the daily at home exercises up to 3 times a day, every day. They were long and very boring to a 9 year old. It’s hard to make “leg lifts, “box jumps”, “balancing” or any exercise at PT fun. We worked extremely hard in the early days getting his leg to straighten. That was a challenge for us. However, what seemed to be an impossible task was getting full flexion. I personally worked on Cameron’s bend 2-3 times a day. I, myself, felt defeated but I did not give up. It took me 7 long agonizing months to get a full bend in his leg (heel to butt). We celebrated that goal and victory that day! And funny enough it was the day before he turned 10 that we mastered that bend. In my eyes, that was a great birthday gift.
Towards the end of his recovery he did weekly 1 on 1’s with a personal trainer as well as the 3 times a week PT visits. At 6 months, the surgeon put him through some detailed testing at a sports preventive injury center to see if he would clear us to return to sports. At the 6 month mark he failed the tests so we worked harder and we went back at month 8 to be re tested.
August 6, 2017 was month 8 AND the new football season had just started a week prior! It was on that day that I got the phone call we had dreamed of. He had passed those tests and got the final clearance from the surgeon to return to sports. My heart sank and I cried tears of joy! What Cam and all of us worked so hard for had finally arrived! I was hesitant to let him play for the fear of re injury but this was why we worked so hard. This was our end goal and we made it there!
Needless to say Cameron was in disbelief that he finally was cleared and free again to be a kid and his smile went from ear to ear! He never looked back from that moment on. He eased into the pre -season and continued to work hard. He had his starting defensive spot back and his team went on to have an undefeated season winning the 2017 Eastern Massachusetts championship!
Cameron has learned a lot from this difficult journey. Patience, working hard and not giving up even when things seem impossible, are just a few! He has learned more about his knee, the ligaments, and the muscles in his leg that I think he would make a wonderful future physical therapist. Of course like any mother, I still worry deep inside about the future. However, we choose to live for the moment and be glad for our amazing accomplishments. The future is out of our control so we don’t worry about the unknowns now.
It has been 18 months since his surgery and he now will show off his scars. He is proud and we are all inspired by him! He is an ACL Warrior! So to anyone going through something similar, take Cameron’s advice and 'Don’t ever give up and keep trying!"