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Sports Medicine From ACL Injuries to State Qualifier
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Emma Stilgenbauer, a multi-sport athlete,
aims to compete once again after treatment
for back-to-back ACL injuries.  


As if tearing an ACL once isn’t bad enough, doing it twice in five years would typically be cause for despair.

Not for 18-year-old Emma Stilgenbauer, whose most recent incident necessitated reconstruction of her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and the surrounding meniscus in her knee 

Crashing Down

Emma’s journey with Children’s Mercy began in 7th grade when she sustained her first ACL injury. Because her growth plates weren’t finished developing, she was referred to Kevin Latz, MD. The next year, Emma was back competing in cross country, basketball and track. In the summer before her senior year, that fighting spirit showed through once again. It was during a basketball game, shortly after she and her opponent came crashing down to the floor. Emma got back up and ran to the other end of the court, but when she went to rotate, she knew something was wrong. After an initial evaluation, she was asked how she wanted to proceed. Without hesitation, Emma responded, “I want to go back to Dr. Latz.”

Back on the Mend

Why Children’s Mercy, when other physical therapists were so much closer to home? “I think they’re awesome,” said her mother, Jennifer. “I love the physical therapy folks. They understand Emma's desire to play again, and that it’s a priority. We choose to drive 45 minutes each way – twice a week – because I appreciate the fact that they understand kids have different levels of ability and drive, and that Emma pushes herself and wants to be back.

Hopeful Return

Emma’s immediate plans include getting back on the basketball court (she currently helps her team as a mentor and unofficial coach) and then it’s time for another shot at the state swimming meet, where her small team of five swimmers took fourth place just last year. When she graduates, she hopes to play college basketball, but she has a more personal goal in mind: paying it forward to other injured athletes.

“I want to become a physical therapist," said Emma. "It has to do with the therapists wanting to know about your whole life. They want you to succeed, they’re more personable. They care about you as a person, not just as a patient. The first time I went to physical therapy, I knew I wanted to do the job.”

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