Knee problems might seem like a problem for those hitting midlife—but at 14?
Luke Fagerson, heading into his first year at Medway High and in his third year in the New England Revolution Soccer Academy, has already had surgery on both of his knees.
“He went through surgery on both knees and will be coming back and playing in the fall,” says his father, Tim Fagerson, himself a physical therapist with SOS-PT in Wellesley. Luke’s injury, he says, was “one of the silent knee injuries, as well as a stress fracture to the back. It’s a very rare condition, although it’s getting more common now with kids playing sports year round. There are 30 cases per 100,000.”
Tim Fagerson explains that the problem began when Luke was in sixth grade.
“He started having some knee pain, the tendonitis type. You’d tape it up, and he’d be fine, with
some discomfort, nothing too serious.” This past winter, however, things changed.
“He was playing basketball, and his knees seemed to really bother him. Then he played on a futsao team, and it started bothering him more after that. Then his left knee started bothering him a lot. He started asking for ice after practice.”
Fagerson took Luke to the doctor, and they found OCD, or osteochondritis dissecans in his knee and on the inside of his knee. Luke was referred to a Boston Children’s Hospital specialist, Mininder Kocher, M.D.
“It’s probably caused by a repetitive overuse,” says Fagerson, says of his son, playing three sports year round. “My theory is it started as a small thing and gradually became a bigger thing. As he grew, it became more apparent, and I don’t think he had time to heal. Fagerson says that in his profession, he is also seeing a lot more stress fractures in the back, something becoming more common in youth sports these days.
“Their cores aren’t strong enough,” he says. “Kids do the exercise, but the form is not good and they’re probably compensating, putting themselves at risk for injuries.” In fact, the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (posna.org) notes that incidence of this injury among adolescents is on the rise, more common among athletes.
Just one sport would have put less volume of load on Luke’s joints, says Fagerson, who says that prognosis for kids with OCD is that it will heal and should be ok, whereas in adults it would create more of a challenge.
The young athlete, having had his knee surgeries, is already back for the fall season. Having his father as a physical therapist doesn’t hurt, as his Dad has been helping his recovery with a high-tech treadmill called the AlterG treadmill.
And thanks to a change in the New England Revolution Soccer Academy’s approach to young athletes, young Fagerson will be able to compete in the U15 age group, rather than the U17, which would be 16-17 year olds.
“There’s a new thing US soccer academies are doing now where they allow late developers to play down with the younger age group,” says Fagerson, explaining that since Luke will turn 15 this month, he’s in the last quarter of his birth year and thus may not be as physically developed as some other players who would have been in his group.
“It’s a very cool program the U.S. Soccer Academy is starting,” says Fagerson, of its adding the U15 category this year. “It will allow talented players to get their playing time while they physically mature.”
Shown is young Medway student Luke Fagerson, a 3-sport athlete who found himself with a knee injury on both knees at 14. After surgeries, and finally, some time to heal, Fagerson will be back in the game at the New England Revolution Soccer Academy.