Quad Cities, IL/IA

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Minimally Invasive Surgeries Help Two Crossfit Athletes Get Back on Their Feet Faster


For two Quad City CrossFit athletes, the choice to pursue minimally invasive surgery has made the difference between continuing to struggle with painful injuries and being able to compete at peak performance.

Ryan Blades and Leah Bruno-Kurth — two friends who work out at the same high intensity CrossFit gym in the Quad Cities — were both struggling with injuries they sustained a long time ago. In 2008, Blades herniated two discs in his back; and in high school, Bruno-Kurth tore her ACL in her knee. While they had both attempted to address the injuries through continuous treatment options, neither was successful. This became particularly apparent during their CrossFit workouts.

“It was getting to a point where the injury was not just aggravating anymore. It was causing me to lose power and decreasing my ability to perform,” said Blades.

Coincidentally, Dr. Tuvi Mendel, an orthopedic surgeon at Orthopaedic Specialists, was also a member at the same CrossFit gym. When he heard about Blades’ and Bruno-Kurth’s injuries, he encouraged them to visit the Davenport office to work with him and his expert team to find a way to help manage their injuries on a long-term basis.

“Given the history of their injuries, I suspected that minimally invasive surgery would be a good solution for both Ryan and Leah,” said Dr. Mendel. “This type of surgery, coupled with customized physical therapy, allows patients to experience faster pain relief, shorter recovery times and minimal scarring.”

Minimally Invasive ACL Reconstruction Leads to Lasting Results for Bruno-Kurth
After Bruno-Kurth tore her ACL in high school, she underwent a reconstructive surgery that was not fully successful. This meant it was only a matter of time before the ligament would tear again.

In February of 2010, almost 25 years after the initial injury, she was doing a box jump during one of her CrossFit workouts when she heard a pop. She knew immediately that her ACL had torn again. At first she relied on friends’ recommendations to find a surgeon.

“I went in for a consultation and had a procedure scheduled with a surgeon recommended by friends, but I just didn’t feel confident. They told me my recovery time would be nine to 12 months,” said Bruno-Kurth. “I canceled the surgery and started looking into other options. When I bumped into Dr. Mendel at the gym and shared my story, he went to the whiteboard and started to draw out three different ways in which the ACL could be reconstructed, including the pros and cons of each. I scheduled a consultation with him shortly after!”

Dr. Mendel performed a minimally invasive ACL reconstructive surgery on Bruno-Kurth to reconstruct the torn ligament back to its proper location. This approach resulted in a much quicker recovery time and less pain.

“The recovery was a lot faster than I expected,” she said. “I had my surgery done in April, and after only three months of physical therapy, I was able to get back to my CrossFit workouts. I haven’t had any more issues with my knees since. It was a really positive experience.”

Blades’ Minimally Invasive Back Surgery Has Immediate Impact
After Blades herniated two discs in his back around 2008, he tried multiple options to treat the injury.

“I tried acupuncture, massage therapy, a chiropractor and a physical therapist,” said Blades. “All of the approaches worked for a little bit, but after a few months something would aggravate the injury again and inflammation would kick in.”

When he started experiencing numbness down his leg because of a flare-up in the injury, Blades reached out to Dr. Mendel to schedule a consultation. Blades had an MRI done. Upon seeing the results, Dr. Mendel reffered Blades to Dr. Michael Dolphin, a surgeon at Orthopaedic Specialists who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery.

“I really wanted to get to a point where I could put this injury behind me,” said Blades. “Dr. Dolphin was very clear about what the surgery would do and what it wouldn’t do. That made me feel really comfortable.”

In March 2014, Dr. Dolphin performed a minimally invasive outpatient microdiscectomy on Blades where he removed the herniated part of the disc material that was pressing on the nerve and the spinal cord. After only four weeks of intense physical therapy, Blades was back in the CrossFit gym.

“When I woke up, the pain and numbness was gone,” said Blades. “I wish I would have done it sooner!”

Blades and Bruno-Kurth Ready to Compete
By researching their options and understanding they had a choice when it came to selecting a surgeon, Blades and Bruno-Kurth were able to fix their long-term injuries for good.

With successful minimally invasive surgeries behind them, Blades and Bruno-Kurth recently competed in the Masters Co-Ed Doubles division of the Quad City CrossFit Christmas Classic that took place Dec. 19-21.

To see how Blades and Bruno-Kurth performed at the Christmas Classic, visit the Orthopaedic Specialists Facebook page at www.facebook.com/osquadcities.