Patient Story

Straight for the Net: A High School Athlete’s Comeback After Spinal Fusion

When the parents of Madison DeRose learned that their 14-year-old daughter’s adolescent idiopathic scoliosis had progressed, despite the full-time Boston brace she’d been wearing for more than a year, understandably, they were concerned.

Madison, an accomplished soccer, lacrosse, and basketball player about to embark on her high school career, had been unaffected by her scoliosis since first detected in the 2nd grade. Despite conservative treatment by Shevaun Doyle, MD, Assistant Attending Orthopedic Surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery, the curve progressed beyond 50 degrees in May 2010 and required surgery. With the start of school (and soccer season) just three months away, the need for expert surgical care was critical.

Dr. Doyle referred the DeRose family to Roger F. Widmann, MD, Chief of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery at HSS, for surgical management. Madison’s mother explains how her concern for her daughter’s health and athletic career was alleviated upon meeting with Dr. Widmann. “I really appreciated Dr. Widmann’s attitude,” she says. “Knowing that athletics was a big part of Madison’s life, he reassured us that spinal fusion would not change who she was as a person, and that she could resume her life as an athlete three months after surgery. Even though Madison was having major surgery, we did not feel like it was the end of the world. It almost felt routine,” says Mrs. DeRose.

In August 2010, Dr. Widmann performed the six hour surgery with great success. Madison was fused to L2 (2nd lumbar vertebrae) with a dual rod construct and multiple pedicle screws. “Her scoliosis was typical,” says Dr. Widmann, “but her high level of physical activity and the demands she would place on her fusion were not. Her expectation was that she would be able to play contact sports again – and my goal was to get her back to full activities, including athletics, 12 weeks from the date of surgery.”

Madison recovered from surgery at home, taking several walks a day to build up her strength, as prescribed by Dr. Widmann. One month following surgery, Madison walked through the doors of Irvington High School for her first day of freshman year. “I had barely any pain,” she says. “Three months after surgery I went back to playing basketball and had no difficulty at all. Later that year, I made the varsity lacrosse team and went on to be All-League. I got back to playing soccer the following fall,” explains Madison.

Dr. Widmann, along with Dr. Daniel W. Green, Associate Attending Orthopedic Surgeon at HSS, continues to evaluate the impact of spinal fusion on patients like Madison after surgery. Through the HSS Return to Sports research study, Drs. Widmann and Green seek to determine the parameters most closely associated with post-operative surgery and an early return to sports, including length of the fusion, level of fusion, and pre-operative activity. This ongoing study, in which Madison is a participant, aims to enroll 90 patients before completion.

Now a year after surgery, Madison continues to be a serious athlete whose dream of playing college sports is well within reach. “Thanks to Dr. Widmann and the rest of the Hospital for Special Surgery pediatric team,” Mrs. DeRose says, “she’s still Madison, only straighter.”

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