Eric’s story: An athlete’s comeback
Friday, December 8, 2017
Eric Osborn was in his mid-30s and had a bad ankle, but he just couldn’t walk away from rugby.
He cherishes the rough-and-tumble game for its camaraderie. “It’s a little bit of an outlet for me, too,” he adds.
That’s why, after almost a year of physical therapy proved ineffective, Eric decided to have his right ankle surgically repaired by Dr. Harold J. Schock of Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic in January 2017.
“A lot of it, was just over time, wear and tear, the pounding of regular running and rugby and cutting. It was a build-up, an accumulation over the years,” Eric says.
“I couldn’t even make it through a practice. It got to the point where I was 5 or 10 minutes into a practice and I was done.”
Eric had torn ligaments off the ankle bone, making the ankle unstable. He also had a cartilage injury. Schock performed a modified Brostrom repair, reattaching torn ligaments to the bone and repairing cartilage and restoring it to the talus area at the front of the ankle. The surgery is intended to stabilize the ankle, improve its mechanics and restore full function.
After having surgery in January, Eric hoped to rejoin the Green Bay Celtics rugby team for their playoffs in April. He vividly recalls Schock’s response: “Oh, no.”
“The recoveries are variable on these. Sometimes it’s a few months. More commonly, though, it’s up to a year for people to get back to doing everything,” Schock says. “The more motivated and harder people are working, often they can get back to their sport and the things they enjoy doing sooner.”
Eric was motivated. Within six weeks of having surgery, he started working with Aurora BayCare physical therapists. He also started working out with one of his rugby teammates.
“He came in with the work-hard-but-follow-the-rules attitude every time. He had a to-the-T mentality. He really followed all the details we talked about after surgery,” Schock says of Eric.
“Watching him progress along, you could see that he was doing everything right, pushing himself and pushing himself a little bit more in the right instances and holding himself back in other instances. He did a really nice job managing his recovery along with the people who helped him out.”
Eric concedes that he pushed the envelope.
“Dr. Schock was amazing,” he says. “Dr. Schock and his team were able to sit down and give me the one-on-one time that I needed. And really to kind of corral me in a little bit, too. Because without them I probably would have gotten back too soon, would have reinjured myself, but he and his staff did an absolutely wonderful job.”
In July, just six months after his surgery, Eric was on the field when the Celtics started fall practice.
“It was huge. Just to walk out on that field – just that, just to walk on the field, was huge,” Eric says. “I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t walk, I was on crutches. And now six or seven months later, I’m on a rugby field, ready to play a combative sport again.”
When the Celtics’ season opened on Aug. 19, there was Eric, standing on a field in Waverly, Iowa, starting on the front line and ready to dive into a tough scrum against the Bremer County Bucks.
Eric taped his ankle for the game and wore a brace. After the game, a 57-27 victory, Eric cut off the tape and removed the brace. Everything felt normal.
“In terms of his functional recovery, cutting, pivoting, his explosion, power … he’s done quite well,” Schock says. “He’s had a remarkable recovery.”
Dr. Harold J. Schock sees patients in Green Bay, Kaukauna and Oconto. To request an appointment, call 877-884-8796 or do so online.
Harold J. Schock, MD, is a Board Certified orthopaedic surgeon at BayCare Clinic Orthopaedic Surgery & Sports Medicine and is fellowship-trained in Sports Medicine. While an undergraduate, he played ice hockey for the University of Michigan and won a national championship in 1996. After one year of professional hockey, he returned to medical school, but has been actively involved with the care of athletes at all levels since his playing days. Learn more here.