Reagan’s Story: Dislocated Shoulder, Surgery, Physical Therapy

Reagan Sloan was nearing the end of her high school athletic career when a shoulder injury sidelined her in fall 2021. She dislocated her shoulder in her senior night volleyball game and received immediate care from Erin Schmerge, AT, Piqua schools’ athletic trainer from Premier Health’s Center for Sports Medicine.

Schmerge arranged an appointment with Thomas Zink, DO, an orthopedic surgeon, for the next morning, beginning Reagan’s journey to recovery. Both thought Reagan initially injured her right shoulder during CrossFit participation.

“In my initial evaluation of the patient, she had suffered a recurrent injury having experienced a sense of instability in the shoulder. She first felt the shoulder had shifted or nearly dislocated while doing CrossFit exercises and subsequently reaggravated it while playing volleyball,” said Dr. Zink. “It is not uncommon to experience trauma and injury to the shoulder during overhead-based activities such as throwing, swimming, and overhead serving and striking a volleyball.”

An MRI shed no new light on Reagan’s condition, and physical therapy provided only slight improvement. After lots of discussion, exploratory surgery was scheduled. Afterwards, Reagan continued to have pain despite therapy and nonoperative measures. Ultimately a surgery was necessary, Dr. Zink said, which included a right shoulder arthroscopy and labral repair.

After a recovery period, Reagan chose to undergo physical therapy at the Hyatt Center based on past positive experience with the Sports Medicine staff there. “They did a great job. They left me with exercises to do. My strength is coming back nicely, and I have almost full range of motion (with the shoulder),” she said.

The Role Of Athletic Trainer And Physical Therapist

Reagan’s experience working with the athletic trainer and physical therapists were enjoyable, she said. The athletic trainer’s role prior to injuries is preventive, providing the student athlete with information on proper warm up techniques and other tips, explained Brian Downs, MS, AT, CSCS.

If an injury occurs, the athletic trainer serves as a resource, guiding the athlete and family in what to do next including putting them in contract with appropriate medical professionals, Downs said. If surgery is involved, an athletic trainer can help with pre-surgery rehab and post-surgery rehab and coordination of care with the physical therapist for needed treatment.

Physical therapist Brian Jans, DPT, SCS, a certified sports medicine specialist, worked with Reagan post-surgery as she regained strength, range of motion, and coordination.

“This was all within the confines of the protocol for her surgery. We follow protocols to progress the patient without undoing what Dr Zink did. I established her plan and made sure she was progressing through the recovery process without injuring her surgery,” Jans said. “I coordinated with the rest of the staff who also saw her. As she progressed through her recovery we made her exercises more difficult.”

As for Dr. Zink, he was great, Reagan said. “He worked with me on my restrictions, what I could and could not do. He always would answer questions. It was probably my best experience with a doctor.”

Reagan graduated in May 2022 from Piqua High School and will attend the University of Cincinnati to study business with a sports focus. She is minoring in Spanish, having an interest in possibly working with the NFL in its growing international games project. Although she has no plans to compete in college level sports, she will explore intramurals for recreation.

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