At 6′ tall, 230 pounds, Gary Ransom isn’t the average-sized patient at Akron Children’s. And, as his physical therapists will tell you, he isn’t the average athlete either.
After suffering a season-ending knee injury last year, this Walsh University senior is ready to the return to football this fall with newfound strength and improved technique thanks to intense determination and physical therapy.
“I injured my back while playing at The University of Akron my sophomore year and that’s when I first met the incredible physical therapy team at Children’s,” said Gary Ransom. “Cortney Myer was my (physical) therapist at the time and she really helped get my back right. I never had problems with it the rest of that season and I still don’t have problems with it to this day.”
Ransom transferred to Walsh University his junior year. While stronger, he was sidelined again with a different, more concerning injury.
“After spring ball, my knee started bothering me so the team trainers recommended physical therapy,” said Ransom. “I had a choice of where to go, but I knew right away I wanted to go to Children’s. They helped me get back in the game before so I knew that’s where I needed to be to get better this time, too.”
“When Gary first came to me it was for patella (knee) tendinitis,” said Malinda Bragg-Coldsnow, PT, MS, CAFS, CPI, CKTP, physical therapist at Akron Children’s. “After a few sessions, he was still having specific pain that was limiting him from doing some of the exercises. I palpitated the area above his knee cap and felt a divot…I knew there was more to his injury than first thought.”
Bragg-Coldsnow reached out to Children’s sports medicine doctor Julie Kerr for further evaluation and an MRI. When the results came back, it showed Ransom had a partial rupture of the quadricep (thigh muscle) which meant he needed more than therapy; he needed surgery.
Quadriceps are 4 large tendons that connect to the knee and assist in walking, running and kicking. As a collegiate linebacker, Ransom’s knee and quadricep function also need to withstand powerful hits and tackles.
“As an athlete, finding out you need surgery isn’t easy to hear, but I know the Children’s team always has my best interests at heart,” said Ransom. “I trust them.”
In June, Ransom underwent surgery to repair the ruptured quad tendon to the patella. For 6 weeks, his knee was kept straight in a brace for a majority of the time to allow the repair to heal without stretching it. Once healed, Ransom worked with physical therapists twice a week to regain motion of the knee and strength in the quadricep.
“When we met with Gary, we talked about recovery and what that meant to him. He had very specific goals which helped us create a plan for him,” said Mike Ross, MPT, CPI, Cert DN, physical therapist at Akron Children’s. “We all walked away from that meeting knowing our main goal was to get him back to playing football at the same high level he was playing before surgery.”
Because Gary’s leg was kept straight in a brace for weeks, he only had 18 degrees of motion in the injured leg whereas the other leg had 130 degrees of motion.
“We started him with basic range of motion, balance and weight bearing exercises and then gradually increased therapy as he showed strength and improvement,” said Ross.
Week after week, Ransom not only put in reps and executed drills during therapy, he asked questions and practiced exercises outside of therapy.
“I found making Gary work in front of mirror really helped him see and understand the importance of each exercise,” said Bragg-Coldsnow. “He’s a perfectionist in how he does his exercises so the mirror really allowed him to focus on very specific details and make corrections.”
After weeks of therapy, Ransom was progressing but still experiencing some pain.
In August, Dr. Christopher Powers PhD, PT, FACSM, FAPTA from the University of Southern California came to Akron Children’s to speak at a professional conference. He needed 2 athletes to help demonstrate findings from his research on the ‘8 levels of glute activation’ which suggests the gluteal muscles control how the knee functions. Gary was a perfect case-in-point.
“It was really a turning point for me,” said Ransom. “Dr. Powers taught me how to take pressure off my knee to reduce the pain. He watched me do exercises, asked where the pain was coming from and showed me how to make adjustments in my technique to relieve it (the pain). He taught me how to engage other muscle groups first instead of putting all the pressure on my knee.”
Ransom applied this new technique to his weekly training sessions and started seeing improvements in muscle mass and strength, and pain reduction.
“This guy is the real deal,” said Ross. “He is one of the most advanced athletes we’ve worked with here so while we’re pushing him, he’s pushing us to improve our ‘game’ as well. So many athletes want to rush through therapy to get to the other side, but Gary is different. He’s very cerebral. He can see the end result and he knows how to get there.”
The intensity Ransom brings to his therapy sessions is palpable and the results are equally impressive.
“Ninety percent is a typical standard patients need to meet on an exercise, consistently, before we change up the session. We measure range of motion, balance, control, resistance, strength and power to get those numbers,” said Ross. “With Gary, we changed his routine every couple weeks because he was constantly attaining the goals we set for him.”
After 8 months of demanding therapy, Ransom is ready.
“I came to Children’s because I wanted to maximize my potential and accomplish all my goals,” said Ransom. “My next step is being ready to play (football) in the fall…Children’s has helped improve my condition and given me knowledge I can use on my own…I’m really grateful for the opportunities and support my Children’s team has given me.”
Gary had his friend make a video that captured his time at Akron Children’s.