Growing up in Kokomo, Indiana, Kristina Appelhans played many sports including volleyball, basketball, and tennis. By fifth grade, Kristina knew that basketball was the sport she wanted to focus on. “Basketball was the only sport I never got burnt out on,” says Kristina.
Before she knew it, basketball was not just a past-time, but a way of life. “It was not only a fun hobby, but also gave me so many opportunities, such as meeting many fun and interesting people and teammates who I am still friends with today.”
Kristina continued to play basketball through high school which provided her with the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. At Franklin College, she became the driving force on the Grizzly’s team and was team captain during her senior year.
Kristina was not only an all-star on the court, but off the court as well. Kristina excelled as a biology major, using basketball as a way to manage the stressors of her academic line-up. “It [basketball] has taught me discipline, an ethic of hard work and helped me to work well with others as a team and in life.”
Little did Kristina know in fifth grade, that those life skills she would develop through her involvement in basketball would help her to make two of the toughest decisions during her basketball career and in her life.
The diagnosis-ACL tear
Dr. Gudeman’s story with Kristina begins during her senior year at Franklin College. Kristina met Dr. Gudeman in his office after injuring her knee during a pre-season scrimmage. The knee injury turned out to be a torn ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament). An ACL tear does not heal by itself and usually requires an ACL reconstruction to restore stability. It is very hard to play a sport with twists, turns, stops and starts with a tear of that ligament.
Kristina, now digesting all of this information, made the first of two big decisions with Dr. Gudeman – she would still play basketball during her fourth and final year at the collegiate level. This would entail a daily regimen of dedicated rehabilitation and wearing a brace during all activity. “I wasn’t ready to give up my senior year,” shared Kristina.
“Kristina was very dedicated to her success as an athlete and I think that is what drove her to try and play basketball with an ACL deficient knee. It was a hard decision for her, and I admire her courage” says Dr. Gudeman.
She worked hard in the athletic training room and on the court with her team, but after a few games and countless practices she realized her level of play was not where she wanted it to be and it wasn’t fair to her teammates or her body to keep trying. “I tried playing with a brace, but I couldn’t perform as I normally could.” It was at that time, sitting in the office with Dr. Gudeman yet again, that she would make the second hardest decision. She decided that she would stop playing basketball at the collegiate level forever and pursue ACL reconstruction surgery with Dr. Gudeman.
“I wanted to have the surgery in order to hopefully be able to play like I was before my injury in the future and I just felt so unstable on that knee that I knew if I wanted to do any other type of activities in the future I would want it to be fixed so I wouldn’t have to worry about it.”
Kristina was dedicated to her rehabilitation program. She worked daily with the Athletic Trainer at Franklin College to remain strong before surgery. After surgery, she returned to the athletic training room to heal and regain strength in hopes of being able to return to her active lifestyle. “I enjoyed working with Kristina because she took control of her progress and pushed herself to get better every step of the way– she made my job easy,” said Dr. Gudeman
Recovery after knee surgery
Four years later, Kristina is living the active lifestyle she had hoped to get back to after surgery. Her knee is not a factor in any decisions she makes, which gives her time to focus on other things like becoming a physician assistant and working with patients to help them make tough medical decisions. “I recently became a PA [physician assistant] and my experience with Dr. Gudeman has guided me in how to treat and help my patients that I see.”
Kristina’s experience and support from Dr. Gudeman and his staff helped her to achieve her goals after surgery. “They were very personal and made me feel like I was their only patient. And being able to do rehab on my knee religiously, pre and post-op, with my AT [certified athletic trainer] helped with my recovery time and getting back to being active as soon as possible.” Interestingly, that athletic trainer now works with Dr. Gudeman in his clinic helping other patients, some who are similar to Kristina, achieve their goals.
Kristina still remembers how hard it was to stop everything and put all of her hard work behind her to have knee surgery, but now she says that it was worth it. “I have a lot of confidence in my knee and I have participated in many events such as running the Knoxville Marathon, numerous mud battle races that have all sorts of obstacles and I am able to workout/ run every day with no issues.”
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