For Natalie Antoni tumbling was life. At the early age of 3, she participated in competitive gymnastics. When she started high school she decided to transition from gymnastics to cheerleading. After a year on the high school cheer team she decided to dedicate her time to tumbling with Noblesville cheer program, Indiana Elite.
The summer before her senior year of high school Natalie severely injured her right knee. Natalie’s mom immediately made an appointment with Dr. Michael Thieken, sports medicine specialist at OrthoIndy. Natalie’s brother had previously seen Dr. Thieken for a torn ACL and they were hopeful Dr. Thieken would be able to fix Natalie’s knee as well.
Complex knee injury
Natalie’s knee injury was complex. Dr. Thieken determined that Natalie had torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), strained her posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), severely tore her medial collateral ligament (MCL) off the bone, had severe bucket handle tear of the medial meniscus, torn her lateral meniscus and dislocated her patella.
Because of her injury Natalie had trouble doing the simplest things in life like getting dressed, riding in the car with her brace and moving around her house. Her high school was two stories and most of her senior classes were on the second floor. Because of this, Natalie had to leave class early and get a special elevator pass to get around.
“The biggest change for me was not being able to do competitive cheerleading. It killed me that I had to miss out on competitions with my Indiana Elite team, especially because it was my senior year of high school,” said Natalie. “Tumbling has always been one of my favorite things and not being able to do it was devastating.”
“Natalie’s injury was challenging in many ways. She had significant ligamentous and meniscal injuries,” said Dr. Thieken. “Some of the injured structures required more urgent treatment but I worried about stiffness after surgery if we addressed all of her pathology at one time. I felt it was best to stage her treatment. First, we repaired her meniscus tears and her MCL. Three months later we reconstructed her ACL, once she had regained her range of motion.”
Surgery is not always necessary for a meniscus and MCL tear; however, since Natalie had also torn her ACL, two surgeries were necessary to get her back to cheerleading.
“Everyone at OrthoIndy was fantastic. From the nurses to the receptionists to Dr. Thieken, everyone was kind, compassionate and really made you feel safe,” said Natalie. “Everyone really makes a point to show that they care, not just about your injury, but also about your overall well being and happiness. Dr. Thieken and his PA, Sean, even sent a congratulatory card in the mail when I graduated high school, which was so thoughtful and meant a great deal to me.”
Recovery from knee surgery
Because of the complexity of Natalie’s injury, her recovery process was a difficult journey. She spent a lot of time on crutches and switched from one knee immobilizer or brace to another.
“At first, physical therapy was very difficult and hurt quite a bit, but in the long run it helped significantly,” said Natalie. “After a year of rehabilitation, I was able to slowly but surely return to competitive cheerleading for an extra year where my team and I won various competitions around the state.”
Besides returning to competitive cheerleading, Natalie has returned to full health and is able to do almost everything she was able to do before her injury. Furthermore, Natalie claims that her experience with OrthoIndy helped her determine what she wanted to do with her future.
“I personally think the biggest and possibly most important thing that has come out of my experience with OrthoIndy and Dr. Thieken is my career goal. I always knew that I wanted to do something in the medical field as a future career but I was never sure what,” said Natalie. “After learning about the knee, spending time with Dr. Thieken and seeing what he does on a daily basis, I realized that I would like to be an orthopedic surgeon in the future.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Thieken please call 317.802.2863 or learn more about OrthoIndy Sports Medicine.