Kendra Lancaster was like any other girl who enjoyed sports. Growing up, sports were a natural for her. She has always been athletic and really competitive, enjoying softball, kickball, basketball, track, soccer, volleyball and horseback riding. The only difference from Kendra and other girls her age was that she was born without a left arm.
“My arm never held me back and I never used it as an excuse to get out of something,” said Kendra. “If anything, it just made me work harder and made everything a little more interesting.”
As a kid, Kendra tried every sport, but volleyball became her passion. In high school she started playing the sport year-round and during her sophomore year she discovered the Paralympic team and decided to try-out.
March 2004, at the age of 16, Kendra became the second youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic Women’s Sitting Volleyball Team. That same year, Kendra’s team won the bronze medal in Athens. Four years later, they took home the silver medal at the 2008 Paralympic Games.
On May 7, 2011, while preparing for the 2012 games, Kendra was injured in a head on collision with another vehicle. She sustained a number of injuries, including a torn ACL, which brought her to OrthoIndy where she saw orthopaedic sports medicine surgeon, Dr. Scott Gudeman.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries are one of the most common knee injuries. The ACL can be injured in several ways, including: changing direction rapidly, stopping suddenly, slowing down while running, landing from a jump incorrectly or like in Kendra’s case, direct contact or collision. There are a couple of symptoms that indicate you may have injured your ACL, including hearing a “popping” noise at the time of the injury, pain with swelling, loss of full range motion and discomfort while walking.
According to Dr. Gudeman, for an athlete, the main concern is being able to get the individual back to his or her pre-injury level of performance and con dence. “Sitting volleyball is a misnomer,” said Dr. Gudeman. “The athlete sits but does not remain in a stationary position. Kendra needed knee stability to push o and turn her body suddenly while in the sitting position. These physical requirements presented a di erent challenge in her rehab.”
“Finding out about my ACL was probably one of the more devastating pieces of news I received after my accident,” said Kendra. “It’s every athlete’s worst nightmare, and after everything else that I had gone through it was the last thing I wanted to hear. As a Purdue student and a fan of Robbie Hummel, a torn ACL comes with some extra baggage too. The possibility of it not holding up scared me. But the very first thing that crossed my mind was the possibility that I wouldn’t be healthy enough to play before the London Games.”
ACL reconstruction surgery
An ACL injury will not heal without surgery and therefore Kendra underwent an ACL reconstruction. The ligament must be reconstructed by replacing the torn ligament with a tissue graft. Dr. Gudeman obtained the graft from Kendra’s patellar tendon, which runs between the kneecap and shinbone.
This procedure is done with an arthroscope using small incisions. The benefits of this less invasive surgical technique include less pain from surgery, less time spent in the hospital and quicker recovery times.
Kendra had a great support system throughout her entire treatment. “I learned a lot as a result of my injury,” she said. “I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful athletic trainers and physical therapists who helped me to get my knee strong and get back into shape. I learned a lot about my body and how it worked and also about myself. My recovery taught me to be strong and dedicated and having the success I have had with my knee after all of the work I put in has been the best reward.”
One member of her support team is Cindy Wells, RN, CCM. Cindy is a Medical Services Consultant for Quality Case Management, Inc. who served as Kendra’s nurse case manager. Cindy believes that Kendra’s outcome was truly a team effort.
“Kendra is not only an injured worker, she is also a valued team member of the Paralympic Volleyball Team. Throughout this claim/injury, Kendra has been so motivated that on several occasions I had to remind myself that she was born without a left arm,” said Cindy.