In 2013, Tom Sora was headed for a distinguished college football career. The high school senior was defensive captain of his team at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles and college scouts had their eyes on him.
But just minutes into the team’s first game of the season, Tom’s rosy prospects seemed to vanish. In one damaging play, his right arm was pushed back – hard. “It was a scary moment,” remembers his mom, Linda. “Tom dropped to one knee and waved for help with his other arm. The whole place was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.” Tom says, “I felt something in my shoulder slide and it didn’t go back. I tried moving my arm and couldn’t. It just felt like the joint was outside where it was supposed to be.”
Dr. Marc Breslow, Notre Dame’s team physician and an orthopedic surgeon at IBJI-Morton Grove, ran onto the field with Tom’s coach. He recalls, “After asking Tom a couple questions, we laid him down on the ground. Under his shoulder pads, I could feel the ball of the shoulder out in the front of the socket.” Dr. Breslow expertly popped it back in. “Tom felt me pop it back in, that really hurts, but after that, there’s little or no pain,” he says. “Kids think they can go right back into the game, but of course, that’s not what we do.”
Dr. Breslow and trainers took Tom out, got his pads off, and iced and immobilized the injury and Dr. Breslow told the Sora’s to come to IBJI on Monday for an MRI.” When Dr. Breslow saw the MRI results a few days later, he knew Tom had a common, but potentially season-ending injury called a Bankart tear.
“Bankart tears are tears to the cartilage or labrum of the shoulder,” he says. “They’re common in contact sports and overhead athletics and often accompany shoulder dislocation.” In young people under age 20 the chance of redislocation is 65% to 95%. Surgery is the most reliable solution, reducing the risk to 1%.” The Soras were understandably concerned.
Says Linda, “Colleges were coming to look at Tom. We thought everything he’d worked toward for years was lost.”
Fortunately, Dr. Breslow had another option. He had helped other athletes like Tom with a special brace that holds the shoulder in proper position during play. It would allow Tom to delay surgery and finish the season.
He says, “If he had been a quarterback or wide receiver, players who have to raise their arms, it wouldn’t have worked, but because Tom played defense, it did.”
Dr. Breslow, the team trainer and physical therapists worked together to prepare Tom for the next game. The Velcro brace was delivered and screwed onto Tom’s shoulder pads, controlling how far forward, back and up his arm could go. Tom remembers, “It was extremely awkward feeling at first. My range of motion and reach were really reduced and I would tackle kind of lopsided. Amazingly, my play was still pretty good. Says Linda, “Dr. Breslow watched Tom like a hawk and for me, having him on the field gave me confidence. The team made it to the second round of playoffs in late November Tom had a great season.
In November, Dr. Breslow performed Tom’s outpatient arthroscopic surgery at the Illinois Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery Center (ISMOSC), an IBJI-affiliated surgery center in Morton Grove. “It was a wonderful facility and the surgery went so well,” recalls Linda. “We checked in early and were ready to go home later that day.”
Two devices helped make recovery more comfortable; a shoulder pad with circulating ice water to keep pain and swelling down and a small catheter that delivered pain medication for the first two days. “The catheter was taped to my neck and numbed up the nerves controlling the shoulder and the ice machine was awesome! I stayed on top of the meds just as Dr. Breslow advised and didn’t feel much pain.”
After keeping his shoulder immobile for four weeks, Tom started physical therapy. Dr. Breslow coordinated an intensive therapy plan for him, working closely with Tom’s high school trainer and his physical therapist.
Tom remembers, “I wanted to push especially at the three, four and five month point when I thought I was completely healed, but Dr. Breslow paced me and keeping at it patiently paid off.” By May, Tom was back to full activity with no restrictions. “I really felt great,” says Tom. “I continued weight training over the summer and was ready for college play.”
Today, Tom is a freshman at North Central College in Naperville, a starting linebacker on the varsity team. In his first few months of play, he was voted College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) Football Player of the Week. “I followed Dr. Breslow’s instructions to the T and that’s why I’m feeling so good right now, strength and stability wise. I have had no problems this entire year.
Says Linda, “Dr. Breslow understands athletes and guides them to what’s safe and right to do. He can keep them on the field when it matters and he also knows when to say when. He and his staff are top notch.” Says Tom, “Having Dr. Breslow at that game made all the difference. I’ve since met other guys who had the same injury. Some played through their seasons without a brace and their joints were popping out all over the place.” Dr. Breslow says, “Tom is an awesome young man. He had a great outcome and it was a pleasure to help him continue to succeed in the sport he loves.”
Dr. Marc Breslow is a board certified sports medicine surgeon at IBJI/Morton Grove. He has been a team physician for Notre Dame College Prep’s football team since 2007 and is team physician in all sports for Niles West, Maine East and Maine West.