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Serving the Susquehanna Region

Brandon's Aquatic Rehab Story

by UPMC Susquehanna

In team sports, athletes are taught to give their all for the sake of the team, and Brandon Lamphier, 17, wasn’t about to be sidelined from his junior and senior years of competition by injury.

On the very last play of Wellsboro High School’s first football scrimmage of the season, Brandon was hit hard. In football, when you get hit hard, you dig deep and get back up—but this time, getting up wasn’t easy. Something was wrong. With intense, agonizing pain in his knee, Brandon sought the expertise of two surgeons to determine the full scope of the injury. To his dismay, he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). ACL injuries are common in athletes who pivot and twist, such as basketball, soccer and football players.

“I didn’t want to miss my junior season of football and basketball, so I was determined to get back to playing as soon as safely possible,” notes Brandon. “I wanted to be there—to help my team and my friends.”

Following further evaluation and discussion with his doctors, his medical team decided Brandon could safely rehabilitate his knee to continue fall sports and postpone surgery for winter. He immediately sought the care of Susquehanna Health’s Physical & Aquatic Therapy Center for a specially tailored plan to get him back on his feet.

“When Brandon first arrived, he couldn’t even put weight on his knee,” explains Tyler Wiand, Brandon’s lead physical therapist. “It was critical to stabilize his knee in order to reduce his pain and rebuild strength, flexibility and mobility.”

To help Brandon transition back to regular walking and then to the higher levels of activity associated with sports, the team developed a two-part rehab plan, including land-based and aquatic physical therapy.

“That pool treadmill was tough!” laughs Brandon, referring to the warm-water therapy pool’s underwater treadmill and propulsion units, which produce fully controllable, continuous water currents. “The current is working against you the whole time making it really challenging. That and the stair climber were the most challenging exercises, but they made a huge difference in recovering.”   

When the going felt a little too tough, he could always count on PT expert Tyler Wiand to lighten the situation with some good-natured ribbing and laughter. “Tyler is always ready with some joke or light-hearted teasing to help motivate you. He and the rest of the team were always so easy and pleasant to work with—you felt like you were working out with your friends.”

In a thrilling comeback befitting a Disney movie, Brandon successfully returned for his junior sports season through grit, determination and concentrated physical therapy to help his team clench the District IV Football Championship.

As the high of sports competition faded, it was time to confront his next challenge: surgery. In March 2016, he received ACL reconstruction surgery to repair the initial tear. Following the procedure, it was back to the drawing board in building up strength, comfort and mobility, but this time, he had a game plan. Brandon knew exactly where he wanted to go. Like the best championship teams, the SH PT & Rehab team didn’t rest on the laurels of past success. They went back to work harder than ever, thinking outside the box and targeting new exercises to increase agility, balance, weight-bearing and movement.

After four months of hard work, Brandon is on track to return for full seasons of football and basketball in his senior year—and ready to bring that same never-give-up spirit to bear on his competition.

“The most rewarding part of my job is helping patients reach their goals. When Brandon came to us, he was on crutches and in a lot of pain. It was difficult for him to even stand, so to see him not only rehab in time to compete during his junior year, but to also recover from surgery in time to compete during his senior year is something really special,” notes Tyler. “But that moment when he takes the football field this fall? That will be the crowning moment for me.”

Although his recovery was full of both challenging and rewarding moments, Brandon cites the steadfast support and encouragement of Tyler and the PT team as the most memorable. “These are the best people you could ask to work with, and I don’t know what I would have done without them. They push you when you need to be pushed and help you focus on where you want to be and how to get there. In the end, it feels amazing that you started at the bottom and worked back toward 100 percent. If you want to get better, this is the place to be.”