Young Hockey Player Successfully Rebounds After Surgery

youth sports hockey playerRyan can’t remember life before hockey. He was two years old when he donned his first pair of skates, and only three years old when he began flying around ice rinks working on his slapshot. Ryan loves the game and can’t get enough of it. Friends and family aren’t surprised, though. Dad was a former goaltender in the National Hockey League and a long-standing professional hockey coach. Hockey is in Ryan’s blood.

Ryan’s passion for the sport has grown over the years, and so has his time on the ice. He got his start playing on local teams, practicing a few hours each week. He progressed to a more serious traveling squad at the age of 10. By 14, Ryan was competing for Thunder Hockey Club, a tier I AAA-level organization that spent every other weekend of the long season (August through April) on the road.

During one of those weekend games in Nashville, Ryan slid across the ice and landed hard on his shoulder. He felt quite a bit of pain and couldn’t move his arm normally. He shrugged it off thinking it wasn’t anything a little ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep couldn’t fix. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Ryan continued to have a great deal of pain and swelling the next day, so he and his mom left the tournament early and went straight to the emergency room close to his Duluth home. An MRI revealed that Ryan had torn a tendon and bone in his shoulder. Surgery was his only option.

“The news was very shocking,” said Jennifer, Ryan’s mother. “We assumed his shoulder would be fine and had no idea how serious it was.”

Within a few days of the accident, Dr. Kyle Hammond, an orthopedic surgeon with Emory Sports Medicine Center, performed a subscapularis tendon avulsion repair. The procedure to fix the largest and strongest of the four rotator cuff muscles only took about two hours at Emory’s outpatient surgery center in Dunwoody.

“I was nervous before the surgery,” said Ryan. “I was worried that I might not be able to play as well after it, but Dr. Hammond was really confident. He kept reassuring me there was no reason I wouldn’t have a good result.”

And Ryan did have excellent results. The operation went smoothly and he was back at home the same day, planning his return to hockey.

“I treat a lot of young athletes,” said Dr. Hammond. “Their musculoskeletal systems are unique and require special attention because, like Ryan, they may still have open growth plates, but our entire Emory team understands the youth athlete and the intricacies that come with creating an appropriate treatment plan. After meeting Ryan and his family and evaluating his injury, I didn’t see anything standing in the way of a successful recovery for Ryan.”

After surgery, Ryan went through six months of physical therapy to restore mobility in his arm and shoulder. He admitted to being a little apprehensive before stepping on the ice again, but said after a week or two, he didn’t really give his shoulder any more thought.

Jennifer was so pleased with Ryan’s results that she called on Dr. Hammond again when her older son (another hockey protégé) had an injury the following year. After another successful surgery, he too got back in the game quickly, safely, and went on to his collegiate hockey career.

Today, Ryan is 17 years old. He still loves hockey and is counting on it to open some doors for him.

“I’m not sure where I’ll end up,” said Ryan. “All I know is that I really want to play college hockey. This coming season will help determine where.”

About Emory Sports Medicine Center

For more information about Emory Sports Medicine Center, visit or call 404-778-3350.

About Dr. Hammond

Dr. Kyle HammondKyle Hammond, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon at Emory Sports Medicine Center. He is the head orthopaedic surgeon for the Atlanta Hawks and head team physician for the Atlanta Falcons. He also serves as a team physician for the Atlanta Braves, Georgia Tech, Emory University, and several metro Atlanta high school athletic programs. Dr. Hammond practices at the Brookhaven, Johns Creek and Smyrna locations of Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center.

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