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January 15, 2013 > Washington Hospital Trainer Gets Athlete Back in the Game

Washington Hospital Trainer Gets Athlete Back in the Game

Knee Injury Sidelines Fremont Student

When Christina Martin heard her knee pop during a volleyball game, she knew it was a bad sign. The excruciating pain that followed confirmed her worst fears. The Irvington High School athlete had torn a ligament in her knee that required surgery to repair and months of rehabilitation.

"I was really scared," Martin said. "All I could think about were my sports. I had a huge softball tournament the following weekend. I'm a three-sport athlete and I just wanted to know how fast I could get back in the game. Carmen was really my main person. She helped me get back to my sports because she knew how important they are to me."

Carmen Charleston is a certified athletic trainer for Washington Hospital's Sports Medicine Program. She is based at Irvington High School, where she evaluates, treats, and rehabilitates sports injuries sustained by student athletes, as well as helps educate them on the prevention of common injuries.

"An athletic trainer is similar to a cross between a paramedic and a physical therapist," Charleston explained. "I am trained in emergency medicine, so I can provide immediate care to injured athletes. I also work with athletes who are recovering from an injury so they can get back on the field."

The fact that sports are important to Martin is an understatement. She started playing softball at age 5. In fifth grade, she added basketball to her list of sports and then volleyball in seventh grade.

Her first knee injury occurred in October 2011. Unfortunately, this October she suffered a similar fate; the ligament in her other knee was torn. She underwent a second surgery and now is working with Charleston to recover.

Charleston was on-site when Martin's first knee injury happened and was able to provide emergency care. Martin's mother Kim was also there because she coaches volleyball and softball at the high school.

"Christina was in a lot of pain and it was Carmen who was able to calm her down," Kim said. "She did an amazing job of refocusing her attention away from the injury."

The Road to Recovery

The road to recovery the first time around was long and painful, although quicker than many had expected. Martin was playing softball by Memorial Day weekend. She credits her recovery to the work she did with Charleston.

Both surgeries were performed by Dr. Russell Nord, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine. He is the director of Washington Hospital's Sports Medicine Program.

"Christina tore the anterior cruciate ligament, which typically requires surgery to reconstruct, especially if you want to get back to sports that involve changing direction and pivoting like basketball," Nord said. "The ACL was rebuilt by using the patellar tendon from her knee."

After Martin's first surgery, she trained with Charleston three days a week and received physical therapy twice a week. The initial goal was to decrease the post-surgical swelling and pain, explained Charleston, who worked closely with Nord to determine which exercises were appropriate for Martin based on her progress.

"At first it was mostly massage, cold therapy, and range-of-motion exercises," she added. "We needed to ensure that the area was healing and that she had good range-of-motion before we could start muscle strengthening."

Charleston began introducing strengthening exercises after about a month. She tried to incorporate exercises that mirrored Martin's sports.

Staying Motivated

"It helps to keep them motivated, particularly student athletes," Charleston said. "If the exercises relate to their sport, it's much easier to stick with it.

They understand why they are doing it."

For example, Martin is a pitcher so Charleston had her practice going through her pitching mechanics, paying close attention to her lower body movements.

"At first we practiced without a ball," she explained. "Then when she had the right techniques down, we incorporated an actual softball. It's a matter of slowing everything down and breaking up each movement into segments, making sure she is doing each segment properly so the body mechanics are correct."

Charleston said it's important to analyze the body mechanics to help athletes prevent injuries. How they twist their bodies and plant their feet has a big influence on whether athletes become injured, she added.

Now Martin is back training with Charleston after the recent injury to her right knee. Oddly, it occurred just four days after the one-year anniversary of the injury to her left knee.

"This time around it's been a little easier," Martin said. "After the first surgery, I couldn't even lift my leg, but this time I could. I knew some of the techniques that Carmen taught me. I'm hoping to be playing softball by May. I'm determined to work hard."

Calling All Student Athletes - Get Your Sports Physical

The Washington Hospital Sports Medicine Program will be conducting sports physicals for student athletes on Saturday, January 26. Dr. Russell Nord, orthopedic surgeon and medical director of the program will be conducting the examinations. A parent or legal guardian must be present. The physicals will be available from 9 a.m. to Noon and will take place at the Washington Township Medical Foundation Sports Medicine office located at 38690 Stivers Street, Suite A in Fremont. The cost of the physicals is $15. Please call (510) 608-1320 for more information and visit to download the physical forms to fill out before arrival.

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