Nicholas’ story: ACL surgery was a slam-dunk

Monday, July 12, 2021

By: Ashley Scott

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While everyone else ran down court, Nicholas Palecek sat on the far end of the basketball floor, staggered by a sudden knee injury.


Seconds earlier, the 19-year-old was in the air, shooting a jumper. A collision with a defending player sent him crashing awkwardly to the floor.


“I jumped to shoot the ball and then they sort of swung their leg out and it pushed my leg back and away where I couldn’t land properly on it,” he recalls. “My leg just got caught behind me and I landed straight down on it.”


The pain in his knee was intense.


“I had to sit there for like, at least a minute, covering my eyes because of the pain,” Palecek says.


Palecek went to the emergency department at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.


“They gave me a brace for a little bit and then I think around two weeks later I went in to see Dr. Awowale,” he says.


That’s Dr. John Awowale, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic. He’s fellowship trained in sports medicine.


Awowale determined Palecek had torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in his right knee. It’s not unusual for both injuries to occur simultaneously.


Awowale is no stranger to treating athletic injuries. He worked one-on-one with University of Wisconsin football players while completing his orthopedic surgery residency at the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison. He completed his fellowship training at the University of Virginia and provided care to their 2019 men’s college basketball national championship team, working closely with head coach Tony Bennett.


Awowale reconstructed Palecek’s ACL and repaired his torn meniscus.


Palecek was released from the hospital just hours after his knee surgery.


He was impressed by Awowale’s follow-up immediately after surgery.


“I felt like he cares about his patients,” Palecek says. “He was very polite. He did a good job explaining what was going to happen in the next couple of weeks or months and the next part of the process that will occur.”


Palecek also enjoys Awowale’s friendly demeanor and engaging personality.


“My physical therapy was right next to his office and I’d see him in the parking lot,” he says. “He would stop by and ask how I was doing after the surgery even though I didn’t have an appointment or anything. He was really nice.”


Now, Palecek is back in action, playing basketball almost daily.


“I can run on the court at the same speed. … “I personally recommend Dr. Awowale,” he says.


Dr. John Awowale sees people of all ages in Green Bay, Sturgeon Bay and Marinette. To request an appointment in Green Bay or Sturgeon Bay, call 920-288-5555 or 877-884-8796; in Marinette, call 715-732-8200 or 888-788-2070; or do so online.


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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.