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Valeria's ACL Surgery Story

by Valeria Passalacqua

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Valeria Passalacqua has been playing soccer since she was 5 years old. The midfielder has had a few sprains over the years, but she never experienced any significant injuries until a game during her sophomore year at Penn College.

As Val cut around the ball, she collided with another player. The force drove Val’s leg one way, and her knee went in the opposite direction. “It was very painful, the worst pain I have ever had to deal with,” says Val. “I knew something was wrong because I couldn’t get up and walk steadily.”

When the pain continued, Val saw the certified athletic trainer at Penn College, who is part of a regional network of athletic trainers that works with Susquehanna Health. She got a referral to see Dr. Patrick Carey, who diagnosed her with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear as well as a partial meniscus tear. Before she could have reconstructive surgery for her ACL, Dr. Carey wanted Val to work with her athletic trainer to do “prehabilitation.” He explained that strength training before surgery would help her recovery.

As her team went on to compete in Nationals, Val prepared for knee surgery. “Dr. Carey helped me a lot,” says Val. “He was an athlete, so I think he can relate to how you’re feeling, but he doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells you what goals you have to meet to get to where you want to be. He set very high goals for me.”

When Val returned to school after surgery and a recovery period at home, she worked closely with the on-site athletic trainer on her rehabilitation and checked in with Dr. Carey each month to monitor her progress. “My surgery went perfectly well; I woke up with no pain,” she says. “I absolutely thought I would never have the same knee again, and I certainly didn’t think I’d be able to get back into soccer with the quick turns and fast pace, but I was ready by the next season.”

After two successful soccer seasons, Val says she can bicycle, ski and do just about anything without worrying about her knee. Val was a nursing student when she tore her ACL, but she switched her major to occupational therapy following her injury and recovery. “After seeing how much help I got through therapy, that has really influenced me,” says Val. “I can relate to what patients go through and let them know that there is light at the end of their rehabilitation. I feel like my knee is 100 percent; I couldn’t ask for it to be better. There are really no limits to what I can do.”

– Valeria Passalacqua, McAlisterville, PA