At 13, Cassidy Wren has done more leaps, jumps, spikes and pirouettes than most people twice her age. The athletic 8th grader at Holy Family School has always given 100 percent on the court and dance floor, but a stress fracture in her lower back forced her to give 100 percent in a new arena – sports rehab.
“Cassidy has been playing volleyball and dancing competitively for years so when she began to complain of her back hurting we thought it was just a pulled muscle,” said Lisa Wren, Cassidy’s mom. “We went to Akron Children’s for an evaluation and were surprised when the X-ray came back showing a stress fracture in her back that’s a common overuse injury.”
The American Orthopaedic Society reports more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and younger need treatment each year for sports-related injuries. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control, overuse injuries are responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries to middle and high school students.
Cassidy was diagnosed with spondylolysis, a stress fracture of the vertebrae in her low back. Her care plan included seeing a physical therapist 2 times a week for 4-6 weeks to focus on deep core stabilization, activation and overall core strengthening in sport-specific functional movement patterns.
Living in Stow, Akron Children’s Boston Heights location provided a convenient place for therapy but, after the first session, her family realized the draw wasn’t just the location; it was also the physical therapist Cassidy would work most closely with.
Physical therapist Jessica Ciborek, a former collegiate volleyball player for Seton Hall University and volleyball coach for local schools and a Junior Olympic team, understands the demands volleyball takes on the body and what movement patterns are necessary to complete certain skills.
“Our PT (physical therapy) team works together to educate each other on sport-specific exercises so we can return our athletes to sport in the safest, most efficient way possible,” said Jessica Ciborek. “I really enjoy working with athletes, and find that in emphasizing accountability, independence and the concept of ‘improving oneself for the benefit of the team’ will take kids further than they ever could imagine.”
Jessica created specific training exercises for Cassidy to support the physical stresses volleyball and dance can bring.
“Cassidy really enjoys working with Jessica because she relates to Cassidy with her volleyball background, but also tries her best to bring real dance aspects into Cassidy’s treatment,” said Lisa. “We’ve let Cassidy take the lead with her treatments with Jessica because she is very comfortable with her and is open and honest about her pain levels and capabilities so I know everyone is on the same page.”
For Cassidy, one of the hardest parts of therapy has been the mental aspect of not being able to perform at 100 percent in her sports.
“The mental aspect of dealing with an injury can be challenging so when I’m with patients I try to focus on the positives of each session, the progress being made and remind them that physical therapy is a process, not a quick fix,” said Jessica. “The hospital has also recently hired a sports psychologist, Dr. Allyson Weldon, who works closely with our sports rehab team to help care for the whole athlete.”
Cassidy is nearing the end of her rehab and has made marked improvement.
“I’m very impressed with Cassidy’s overall independence and attention to detail with her exercises as we work to get her back to feeling her best,” said Jessica. “When given a cue, she immediately attempts to execute exercises and asks questions when unsure. This characteristic will aid in her successes in the dance studio, on the volleyball court, and in the classroom.”
Every October we celebrate National Physical Therapy Month, an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of physical therapy. As in Cassidy’s case, Akron Children’s physical therapists play a critical role in helping kids, of all ages and abilities, achieve their physical activity goals and improve their quality of life.