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Bridget's Story: The Prima Ballerina

In September 2020, Bridget, a 12-year-old dancer from Westfield, Massachusetts, landed on her left knee while performing a front aerial, an acrobatic move she had perfected many times before.

“I was in immediate pain. I couldn’t put any weight on my knee,” said Bridget. “I think I was in denial that I was hurt because I had never had an injury like that before.”

Competing since she was 6, dance was everything to Bridget. “In that moment, everything in Bridget’s world stopped,” said her mother, Erin. “We knew she wouldn’t be dancing for a while, and that was crushing.”

Following a visit to her pediatrician, Bridget was referred to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield, where she met Ahmad F. Bayomy, M.D., medical director of the hospital’s sports health and medicine program.

A complete evaluation included an MRI confirming that Bridget had experienced a first-time kneecap dislocation without other injuries to the knee. Dr. Bayomy diagnosed patellofemoral instability and discussed both non-surgical and surgical treatment options. “Bridget was passionate to return to dance. After reviewing the options and considerations specific to Bridget, we agreed that she was a terrific candidate to try the non-surgical route.”

“We were so thrilled and relieved to know she didn’t need surgery,” said Erin. “But it was important to us that she be recognized as an athlete as she entered therapy. Dr. Bayomy and the entire team treated her like a serious athlete every step of the way.”

Bridget was fitted for a knee brace in the hospital’s orthotics and prosthetics department, and began eight weeks of physical therapy with physical therapist Erin Carpenter, PT, D.P.T., who was also a trained dancer. “We try to pair patients with therapists who are familiar with the patient’s sport. I knew Erin’s background as a performing arts athlete would help maximize Bridget’s time spent in treatment,” said Dr. Bayomy.

At the start of therapy, Erin worked with Bridget on improving the range of motion in her knee and strengthening her hips and core. “As she gained strength and the pain in her knee reduced, we progressed to running and jumping,” said Erin.

“It was so cool how Erin incorporated dance moves into my therapy,” said Bridget. “She knew all the moves. We talked the same dance lingo!”

After eight weeks of therapy, Erin evaluated Bridget on her balance, neuromuscular control and strength to assess her progress in her recovery. “She passed with flying colors,” said Erin. “Bridget was cleared to make a gradual return to dance.”

“I advised Bridget to continue to wear the knee brace for a few more months to give her extra support when running, jumping or pliéing in order to reduce the risk for another dislocation,” said Dr. Bayomy. Erin also developed a home exercise program to help Bridget maintain her strength and range of motion.

In December, Bridget returned to dance practice and executed a front aerial to perfection. “I was so emotional,” she said. “It was such an amazing feeling.”

Bridget’s dance instructor, Hayley, said it looked like she hadn’t missed a beat. “She looked ready to take on anything.”

With aspirations to become a principal ballerina in a professional dance company, Bridget and her family are grateful for the level of care she received at the Springfield Shriners Hospital. “Bridget was treated like a first-class athlete and that meant everything to us,” said her mother. “Thanks to Shriners Hospital, my daughter will be able to follow her dreams.”

Bridgett

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