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A Multi-Ligament Injury Story

Jack’s Story


Jack Engel is a multi-sport athlete, so after stopping short during a high school football playoff game resulted in a major multi-ligament tear in his knee, he wanted a knee specialist that could help him resume activity safely and quickly.

Ortho Express

At the time of his initial injury on the football field, both the athletic trainer and the doctor covering the game realized that Jack had a major injury to his knee. He wanted answers as to what the injury was and his options were. That is when he chose OrthoIllinois’ walk-in injury clinic, Ortho Express, for another opinion.

Jack’s Diagnosis

After examining Jack’s knee, the injury specialists at Ortho Express suspected a more serious injury and an MRI was performed to secure detailed images of Jack’s knee. The MRI made it clear that Jack had a very serious injury to his knee, in fact, many athletes never return to sport after a multi-ligament knee injury like Jack’s. He was then advised to meet with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss his MRI results and treatment options.

Jack wanted the best and most experienced sports medicine surgeon available and chose Dr. Van Thiel. During his meeting with Dr. Van Thiel, Jack’s fear of a serious multi-ligament knee injury was confirmed. Non-treatment of his injury was not an option and would greatly impede Jack’s ability to remain active in sports. There are 4 main ligaments in the knee and Jack tore 3 of them. He not only tore the ACL, which is the most commonly torn knee ligament, but also injured his lateral collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments. All of these ligaments are required for knee stability and participation in sports.

Jack’s injury occurred on Halloween and Dr. Van Thiel advised that the resulting swelling and inflammation should be allowed to stabilize over the next few weeks. This would allow Jack to regain some of his range of motion before the surgery to repair the ligaments. The surgery was scheduled for early December.

Jack share that he “asked Dr. Van Thiel to fix my knee the way he would an athlete’s, as I wanted to keep an active life and still be able to play basketball, football, and baseball.”

In preparation for the surgery, Dr. Van Thiel showed Jack where his ligaments were missing and explained in detail what the procedure would entail. When Jack went to the hospital for the procedure, he felt prepared and ready.

“When I woke from the surgery, I was really excited” explained Jack. “I knew that this would make my life better.”

Jack’s Recovery


The surgery was an overwhelming success, but was also a 4 hour operation that many surgeons will split into 2 separate surgeries because of the complexity. Given the large procedure, he did spend the night in the hospital. As his pain decreased and the effects of the anesthesia wore off, Jack was excited to start the recovery process. During his school winter break, he completed physical therapy and worked on regaining his range of motion.

That Halloween playoff game at which he injured himself is now in the rearview mirror and, as a freshman at the University of Alabama, he is,majoring in Mechanical Engineering and still plays basketball daily. Jack is both thankful his football injury doesn’t affect his active lifestyle and feels fortunate he chose the right surgeon.

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