After a slip-and-fall accident that tore her hamstring, Sue Gaines is back to participating in group exercise classes
Sue Gaines prided herself on being active. A resident of Sun City West, Gaines, 66, is an avid hiker and walker. She grew up riding horses. Her favorite hobby — riding a Peloton indoor bike — kept her healthy and engaged with friends across the country who enjoyed group cycling classes.
But it wasn’t an injury on the bike or a slip on a hiking trail that sidelined Gaines and threatened her mobility. Instead, it was an everyday accident at work.
“It was just a slip and fall,” she said. “They had just gotten done mopping the floors, and my legs just went out from under me. I did the splits without meaning to — I’ve never been able to do the splits, but I did on that day. I couldn’t get up. I knew it was pretty serious.”
Gaines hit her head in the fall, suffered a black eye, and tore her left hamstring. While the immediate concern was a possible head injury, Gaines said she knew the damage to her left leg was more serious.
“I tolerate pain pretty well,” she said. “And I kept saying that my leg just wasn’t moving correctly.”
Gaines called The CORE Institute, where she’d previously had a successful shoulder surgery. This time, she saw Dr. Michael Rose, a Fellowship Trained Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in Sports Medicine.
“I was very adamant with him: I ride my bike five, six times a week and wanted to continue to do that,” she said. “He reassured me that with my surgery, I’d be able to get back on the bike.”
Ten days after the fall, Dr. Rose surgically repaired Gaines’ torn hamstring.
“She tore the tendon of the hamstring off the lower part of the pelvis,” he said. “It was completely torn off. What we do for people who do a lot of activity like (Gaines) is repair the hamstring tendons.”
Hamstring injuries like Gaines’ aren’t especially common as everyday injuries. Still, athletes such as hurdlers or running backs often suffer hamstring injuries because their skills involve explosive pushing from the legs.
Gaines’ hamstring tear was likely the result of years of activity and wear and tear. Dr. Rose likened it to the degradation of fabrics that are washed and worn over and over.
“You get small tears in the tendon, and then the tendon doesn’t have a great blood supply, so it doesn’t have a great way to repair itself,” Dr. Rose said. “It’s the same process as with the rotator cuff in the shoulder. It’s like when you have a pair of jeans that you wear a lot, and at the knee it kind of wears out, and then it gets small tears, and the tears become bigger over time.”
Immediately after the surgery, Gaines had to immobilize her leg so it wasn’t bearing any weight and couldn’t be extended.
“Once Dr. Rose fixed my leg and the surgery happened, I felt so much better,” she said. “Once he went in there and reattached it, as soon as he did that, my pain level was very low. I didn’t even take pain pills. It was amazing.”
Three weeks after the surgery, Dr. Rose permitted Gaines to return to her bike without any weight/resistance on the pedals. She also went to physical therapy for six weeks.
“Every time I’d go into physical therapy, they’d allow me to have more mobility in the leg,” she said. “It was 8-12 weeks before the brace came off completely, and I was able to do what I was supposed to do. I was still weak, but I could do normal activity.”
At her 12-week checkup, Dr. Rose cleared her to resume normal activity. She was back on her Peloton and connecting with her virtual friends who’d missed her. Now after her successful procedure she found she was riding with the same vigor as before the accident.
“My left leg is actually stronger than my right,” Gaines said. “There’s nothing I can’t do now.”
- Article By Elise Riley