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The Fulkerson Method: Procedure Addresses Teen's Chronic Knee Pain

As an active child, Alexis was involved in as many sports as she could fit on her plate at one time. From basketball to Taekwondo, 12-year-old Alexis’ life was fast-paced and she was always on the go. It wasn’t until she noticed a debilitating knee pain in Taekwondo class that she questioned what could be wrong.

The first time she heard a “pop,” Alexis fell to her knees in pain. It appeared her kneecap had popped out of place. Little did she realize then that this would be the start of an ongoing issue. Her mother empathized with her daughter’s pain; the experience was all too familiar. She knew just where to take Alexis for the best care, a place where she too had been a patient: Shriners Hospital for Children — Greenville.

Shortly after her first visit to the Greenville Shriners Hospital, a diagnosis was clear – patellofemoral instability. Alexis’ inner growth plate in her knee was outgrowing her outer knee growth plate, causing her knee to pop out of place on occasion. Patellofemoral instability is the most common cause of knee pain in active individuals, especially girls.

Over the course of several years, treatment for Alexis would consist of multiple knee surgeries to attain the best outcome. At 18, Alexis reached skeletal maturity, which made her a candidate for the Fulkerson osteotomy, a surgical procedure.

In December 2019, Alexis underwent the operation, performed by T. Whitney Gibson, D.O. “Using the Fulkerson method, we cut the tibial tubercle, which connects the patellar tendon that runs on the bottom of the kneecap to the tibia (shinbone),” explained Dr. Gibson. “We then are able to move it upward and medially.”

The Fulkerson method was a success for Alexis, as she explained that her pain has improved each day. Alexis has since moved from Taekwondo and basketball to drag racing – a sport her entire family enjoys together. Alexis is able to continue to live her active lifestyle with ease since her operation.

Alexis in racecar

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