On the eve of the first practice of the 2014-15 basketball season, Norton High School’s Jimi Howell ran after a loose ball during open gym, made a cut and went down.
The pain behind her right knee was not a good sign. She was happy to later find out her doctor didn’t think she had torn her ACL.
But a subsequent MRI at Akron Children’s Hospital told a different story. Her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), which runs through the center of the knee and connects the thighbone to the shinbone, had indeed torn.
Jimi’s season was over.
Akron Children’s orthopedic surgeon Dr. Patrick Riley Jr. told Jimi he could reconstruct her ACL, and that if she followed the recommended rehabilitation, the ligament could be stronger than ever.
“He knew how disappointed she was,” said Michelle Stripe, Jimi’s mother. “She was going to miss the whole season. But he understood where Jimi was coming from, her competitiveness and will to get back out there. They were very encouraging.”
Jimi has come back in a big way.
This year, her senior year, she’s on a tear on the basketball court. The 5′-10″ forward averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds a game. She broke the single-game rebound record and helped lead the Lady Panthers to a 17-5 record.
In the last game of the regular season Feb. 13, Jimi scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds en route to a 64-61 overtime victory.
The Norton Post calls the Lady Panthers “one of the most entertaining basketball teams – boys or girls – in Northeast Ohio.”
The team starts post-season tournament play this Saturday (Feb. 18) against Northwest High School.
Jimi said she plays as hard as ever, with supreme confidence in her repaired knee.
“It never hurts when I play. It feels great all the time,” she said. “I don’t fear that I’m going to tear it again.”
ACL tears tend to be non-contact injuries usually caused by sudden deceleration, pivoting, cutting and landing. Female athletes are at substantially higher risk than males, a disparity attributed to anatomical and muscular differences, and possibly other factors.
Athletes usually recover fully, but not always.
“Not everybody gets back to the same level of activity as before,” Dr. Riley Jr. said. “Jimi is doing better than before. She worked hard and she’s done well.”
Jimi also plays volleyball and runs track. She has college scholarship offers for all 3 sports, but hasn’t decided where she wants to go. She wants to play college sports, but her primary goal is to get an education degree and become a high school teacher.