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Rafael's Story

Fibular Stress Reaction
Rafael performing exercise

Rafael knew something felt wrong. “I overdid it,” explained the 12-year-old competitive gymnast. It turned out he had stress reactions in both of his legs due to repeated overuse. If left untreated, his injuries could have turned into bone fractures.  

The middle of three brothers, Rafael first started doing gymnastics at age three and has been competing since he was seven. His events are the trampoline and the double mini, which is an apparatus smaller than a traditional trampoline. His older brother is also a competitive gymnast.

“When [Rafael] told us about his legs hurting a few months ago, I did a Google search and came across the Fight For Children Sports Medicine Center,” said Rafael’s mother Rebecca. The state-of-the-art clinic in downtown Silver Spring, MD, is home to one of the only pediatric sports medicine programs in the region, and it is the only facility in the region dedicated to meeting the needs of young athletes. In addition to clinical care and physical therapy, the clinic also offers top-of-the-line imaging, athletic training and a 3D motion capture lab.

Rebecca was pleasantly surprised to discover that the brand new facility was so close to her family’s home. “Because it focuses on kids, I was especially excited,” she said. She called and made an appointment with Keyur Desai, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician who recommended that Rafael start physical therapy after a period of rest to let his injury partially recover.

A few weeks later, Rafael was paired with Kevin McGuinness, PT, DPT, a sports medicine physical therapist at the clinic. “He was just so much fun to work with, such a willing patient and participant in everything I challenged him with,” Kevin said of Rafael.

On the Road to Recovery

At first, Kevin worked with Rafael to identify the biomechanical issues and imbalances that may have led to his injury. Over time, they gradually reintroduced activities such as jumping, twisting and pounding in ways that wouldn’t reaggravate his injuries. “I [had] to find ways to get this kid to be able to jump and flip 20, 30 feet in the air multiple times and then land without hurting himself again,” Kevin said. “What he does, what his sport demands, is so far and beyond what most people would ever do in their athletic lives.”

Rafael flipping in the air

“What I really, really appreciate about Kevin is that he's a lot more holistic than other physical therapists I've taken the boys to or gone to myself,” Rebecca said. The physical therapy Rafael has received not only treated his injuries but helped him understand his body better, she said. “He's at his highest level of performance since he started seeing Kevin,” Rebecca said.

After attending physical therapy twice a week for about three months, Rafael completed his rehab and is no longer experiencing any pain in his legs. He is looking forward to an upcoming meet in Texas and next year he hopes to compete in Bulgaria. “I'll be busy,” Rafael said of the coming year.

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