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Published on April 23, 2021

Ankle Repair Gets Officer Back in Action

Dr. Eric So examines John's ankle post surgery. 

Lincoln Police Department officer John Hudec severely injured his left ankle two years ago while he and his partner captured a suspect who was fleeing arrest.

“I knew things were bad right away because I had instant, extreme pain in my ankle,” says John, who lives in Lincoln with his wife, Michelle, daughter, Jadyn, and sons, Jacob and Austin. “By the next morning I couldn’t walk, and my ankle was completely bruised and swollen.”

Podiatrists, or ‘DPMs,’ are doctors of podiatric medicine, and as such they care for patients with problems of the feet and ankles. That includes simpler problems like heel pain and bunions, and more complex issues like severe ankle injuries and ankle arthritis.

"In treating these complicated problems, podiatrists perform many types of surgeries, including repair of damaged ankle ligaments and total ankle replacements," says Dr. Eric So, of Capital Foot & Ankle, part of the Bryan Physician Network.

Routine Treatments Not Enough

”Because John’s ankle was severely damaged, with torn ligaments on both sides, routine treatments like rest, bracing, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy weren’t enough to help him heal completely," Dr. So says. "John did an excellent job of at-home care and strengthening his ankle through physical therapy, but he kept reinjuring it because his ligaments just weren’t strong enough to hold the ankle steady.”

Torn ligaments heal by creating scar tissue, which doesn’t stretch like healthy ligament tissue. So, once damaged, ligaments don’t work as well as they originally did because they lose elasticity, much like an overstretched rubber band.

“John’s ankle ligaments were so damaged and overstretched that I could easily move his ankle bone out of its socket during his examination,” Dr. So says.

John ultimately required surgery to repair his damaged ankle ligaments, with the goal of increasing strength and flexibility in his ankle.

Minimally Invasive Procedure

Because he is athletic and also quite active in his work as a police officer, John needed a strong, very flexible ankle repair. For this reason, Dr. So strengthened the repaired area with a device called the Arthrex Internal Brace, which is anchored over the repaired ligaments during surgery and left in place permanently to support the area.

“John was a good candidate for the Arthrex Internal Brace because typical treatments such as rest, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy didn’t resolve his pain or his ankle instability," Dr. So says. "Also, MRI scans of his ankle confirmed that ligament surgery was necessary for him to recover fully.”

Dr. So repaired John’s ankle in a same-day surgery using a minimally invasive technique that needs only a small surgical incision. Similar procedures can help patients with painful flat feet or other ligament problems in the foot and ankle. After surgery, John had two Arthrex Internal Braces permanently in place to keep him from rolling his left ankle again. He was able to safely return to rehabilitation exercises and physical therapy just two weeks later.

Faster Return to Active Lifestyle

“The more quickly patients start physical therapy after ligament surgery, the better, because this allows a faster return to activity and work,” says Dr. So. “In this way, the internal brace offers a big improvement over traditional methods of ankle repair that require a six-week wait before physical therapy.”

John says he recommends that anyone considering the procedure Dr. So performed for him not wait longer than necessary when routine treatments are not successful.

“It definitely makes sense to use those simpler approaches first, but I did them for 13 months and would have liked to have gotten the surgery a few months sooner,” he says.

Now he’s back to working out at the gym with Michelle several times a week and doing what he enjoys at home, as well as his regular duty at the police force.

“My quality of life is better both at home and at work,” John says, “because I’m not worrying about rolling my ankle, which definitely gives me more freedom. I still have some pain and swelling, but I can do nearly everything I could before the injury. It’s great to have a working, stable ankle now and to feel more normal again.”

For more information, visit Capital Foot and Ankle here.

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