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From Collegiate Volleyball to Teaching Physical Education


67-year-old Kathy Murray is the type of athlete many of us strive to be. She played collegiate volleyball, and intramural volleyball throughout her young professional life, taught physical education, and coached sports for many years.

“My whole life centered around being active in sports,” she says.

Over the past couple of years, Kathy has gotten very involved in playing tennis and pickleball.

On August 6, 2022, Kathy was enjoying playing flag football at her family reunion on a beautiful family lake property when she ran to catch the flag, felt her knee lock up and fell to the ground.

A Dislocated Hip or a Hamstring Strain…? Neither


When her husband took her to the hospital, the attending physician was not sympathetic and failed to best care for Kathy. She was told that her injury was probably a strained hamstring and that it was good to walk on it, but Kathy was unable to walk.

After a friend from tennis recommended Kathy see an orthopedic surgeon, she scheduled an appointment with a nearby provider who ordered an MRI scan.

Kathy says, “I went home and I got a phone call the next day from the nurse there, who said that it was a completely ruptured hamstring tendon. I said ‘You mean it tore away from the bone.’ And she said, ‘yes’. I said, ‘Oh my goodness.”

The hamstring muscle was seven centimeters away from where it should be on the bone, which indicates a severe hamstring tendon injury. 

Finding Dr. Van Thiel

Kathy did hours upon hours of research to find the best orthopedic surgeon to fix her hamstring tear in the Illinois area. Her sister-in-law came across a patient story of Dr. Van Thiel’s about a woman who slipped during a tennis match and injured herself, and sent it right over to Kathy for her to read. 

Kathy instantly got a good feeling about Dr. Van Thiel, so she called and made an appointment the next morning for that same afternoon. Her husband, Tim, and Kathy drove three hours to her appointment, and she says,

“We went to Rockford and met with Dr. Van Thiel and right away, both my husband and I were so impressed with his calmness, reassurance, and expertise about my injury.”

Dr. Van Thiel moved around his schedule so he could perform the operation on Kathy the very next day, so Kathy and Tim went to the store and bought some toothbrushes and pajamas! The next morning, Dr. Van Thiel found out in the operating room that her muscle was in fact 10 centimeters retracted, instead of seven, but the surgery was a success.

Back to Being Limitless


When Kathy woke up from the surgery, Dr. Van Thiel asked her, “The most important thing is, did you catch that kid?” She said, “No, but I was two inches away!”

The afternoon after the operation, Kathy was already on her way home without much pain and a secure brace on her leg. One month later, she was dancing in her crutches at a friend’s wedding, taking all the attention away from the bride. After numerous hours and days of physical therapy, Kathy currently pushes 80-pound sleds, jumps on and off boxes during her workouts, and is back in action playing pickleball. 

The main point to understand is that it had only been three months of her torn hamstring recovery time by the time she was back to full knee function, so Kathy really is a star.

View other stories like Kathy’s here: Patient Stories 

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