Small Steps, Hard Work, Excellent Results for Field Hockey Player

Katie Kohn loves playing field hockey, so an injury followed by surgery and months of outpatient rehabilitation was not in her plans. She knew recovering and returning to her collegiate team would be tough, but she met the challenge with the help of her physical therapist.

Katie was in the first few minutes of a field hockey game in her sophomore year at Swarthmore College when she suffered a non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Only four games into her season, and on track to be the top scorer for the second year in a row, Katie was devastated.

Back at home in Maryland, Katie underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL. She began rehabilitating her knee near home but needed a physical therapist near Swarthmore when she returned to college for the fall semester.

Katie did her research and found a therapist who could help her get back on the playing field. At Penn Therapy & Fitness, she began working with Erica Tully, PT, DPT, LAT, ATC, who knew the athletic trainers at Swarthmore.

Erica’s first task was to create a customized treatment plan based on Katie’s goal to play field hockey again. Because she had a nerve block during surgery, Katie had leg numbness and weakness but not a lot of pain. Her activity was limited and she was using two crutches.

With a focus on walking, increasing range of motion and strengthening her knee, Katie began working with Erica in early therapy sessions to activate her quadriceps.

“Being immobile was a hard transition for me because I had been so active,” says Katie. “But Erica was so positive and told me the first time we met that she was committed to working together to get me back to not only walking but to peak performance.”

Within two weeks of working with Erica, Katie was able to transition to one crutch. She progressed in her twice-weekly sessions to walking without crutches and going up and down stairs. Later – in the eight months of working with Erica – Katie advanced to running, jumping and cutting.

“Katie’s path to success started on day one of her rehab,” says Erica, who has a background in athletic training.  “She was motivated and worked hard during our sessions. We set small goals that helped reinforce Katie’s progress, but she also did the work required outside of the clinic and never lost sight of her goal to play field hockey again.”

Katie was cleared for non-contact participation at Swarthmore the spring after her injury and slowly worked her way back to field hockey contact drills. She continued working out at the gym after therapy ended and prepared for tryouts.

Last September, she played in her first game since the injury and says her knee felt great. She played the rest of the season and excelled, leading the team in scoring with 11 goals and 5 assists for 27 points. She had 3 multi-goal games. Katie was selected to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-Region V Team in late 2023.

Erica says not everyone can return to that level of performance after an ACL injury. But through the “power of therapy,” hard work and a great attitude, Katie achieved her recovery goal and much more.

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