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Saved From the Sidelines

Minimally Invasive Surgery Preserves Teen Athlete's Abilities

It's hard to pin a young man like Nyeem Haynes down. As Cheltenham High's football quarterback and forward for the school's basketball squad, Nyeem weaves, spins, passes, sprints, shoots and scores for both Panthers teams.

Nyeem Haynes

Not bad for a 17-year-old whose shoulder almost benched him for good.

He suffered his first dislocated shoulder at 15 during a basketball practice. Partial or full dislocation occurs when the head of the upper arm bone pops out of the socket.

"It wasn't too bad," recalls the teen modestly, referring to the white hot pain that drops most people to their knees. Nyeem was rushed to Abington's Emergency Trauma Center, where physicians administered a light sedative to help him endure the realignment.

The teen was rearing back to throw the football at a school game when his shoulder separated the second time. His mother, Dannielle Parsley-Haynes, remembers each of his three dislocations all too well.

"I'm the ‘mother of all sports injuries,'" she laughs ruefully. "I said, ‘How about going out for Chess Club, or the Debate Team?' But he lives to play ball. So when John H. Wolf, Jr., M.D., Nyeem's orthopedist, referred us to his colleague Shyam Brahmabhatt, M.D., a sports medicine specialist, we hoped that he could stop the cycle."

According to Dr. Brahmabhatt, young, active people are far more likely to suffer multiple dislocations than people in their 40's or older. Besides the intense pain and disability, these shoulder shifts often cause tiny tears in the labrum, or ridge of cartilage that encircles the ball that fits into the socket joint. The tears are called "Bankart lesions."

"Looking down at the top of the shoulder socket is like looking at a golf ball sitting on a tee," Dr. Brahmabhatt explains. "There's a ‘chock block' in the front and one in the back to keep the ball from falling off the tee. Nyeem's chock block pops out in the front, toppling the shoulder forward.

"I've seen kids who've had so many dislocations that their shoulders separate in their sleep," this sports medicine specialist adds. "Those who are susceptible to this kind of injury need surgical intervention to return to even moderate activity. We also want to prevent the early onset of arthritis."

Surgeons at Abington Memorial Hospital are performing increasing numbers of complex Bankart shoulder repairs through minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery. In March 2008, Dr. Brahmabhatt made three small incisions in Nyeem's shoulder, inserting a tiny camera into one. Guided by the magnified high-definition images, the surgeon manipulated surgical instruments through the other two. Slowly, precisely, Dr. Brahmabhatt reconnected the torn cartilage to the shoulder socket. Without the traditional "open surgery," there's no need to cut through the major tendon that runs along the shoulder. The procedure can be done on an outpatient basis and offers the benefits of less pain and faster recovery.

Less downtime is critically important when you're a competitive athlete and teamplayer. Dannielle Parsley-Haynes hoped her son could make it through the six months of complete arm rest Dr. Brahmabhatt ordered. "When Nyeem heard he couldn't even dribble the basketball, his face just fell. It was as if he'd been told he'd never walk again."

Like the true sportsman he is, Nyeem remained disciplined and true to wearing his sling. But he can tell you the exact day he was able to start bouncing the ball, as well as all the other milestones in his recovery.

"Thanks to Dr. B., I feel like I'm at 100% again," he grins. "My flexibility is back. And the new season has started! "

Nyeem knows it's not whether you win or lose. Nothing beats being back in the game.

For more information about the Orthopaedic and Spine Institute, call 215-481-BONE.

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