Athletic trainer helps keep ankle injury from ending season

An ankle injury interrupted but didn't end the basketball season for Troy Hilz.

By: Alexandra Johnson .

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Troy Hilz worked hard to get to be a starter for his high school boys basketball team. Midway through the season, however, Hilz had a serious injury at practice when a fellow teammate landed on the inside of his left ankle while both went for a rebound.

A halt in the season

Once Hilz overcame the pain, he realized this could end his senior year basketball season. Immediately, he went to see Jordan Davis of Sanford Health, the head athletic trainer at Legacy High School in Bismarck, North Dakota.

“Troy sustained a grade 2/grade 3 ankle sprain,” Davis said. “I was able to see him right away and perform his evaluation immediately and then referred him to the walk-in clinic to rule out a fracture.”

At the walk-in clinic, Hilz was told he had a bone bruise of his medial malleolus, or the the ankle joint’s inner bump, with no fracture to his ankle. With that hopeful news, Davis worked with Hilz on his rehabilitation, focusing on pain management and reducing swelling. They started core exercises targeting hip strength and basic balance.

Road to recovery

When Hilz’s pain didn’t improve in a week, he had an MRI. That revealed he had tears in his ankle’s anterior talofibular ligament and calcaneofibular ligament, as well as a hairline fracture of the medial malleolus.

“Again, I immediately thought my senior basketball season was over. Then continuing to talk to the doctor, we were hopeful that I could get back on the court,” Hilz said.

Ankle sprains are common for athletes competing in change-of-direction sports. Davis said Hilz’s injury was more severe. He had to wear a walking boot for two weeks along with having physical therapy in Bismarck.

While his teammates practiced, Hilz continued his rehabilitation with Davis in conjunction with his prescribed exercises in the athletic training room. After the first week in the walking boot, Davis incorporated stationary cycling exercises to help rebuild Hilz’s stamina. Then they began light plyometrics and jumping to make it as game-like as possible.

Overcoming injury

After four weeks of rehabilitation with Davis, Hilz went back to practicing with his team. Within five weeks, he was back in the game.

“The first week of practice and the first few games were an adjustment. After I got my confidence back in my ankle and back to playing shape, I was good to go,” Hilz said.

Even though his ankle sprain turned out to be more severe and had to be restricted to a walking boot, Hilz progressed quickly throughout his rehab.

“While he wasn’t on the court practicing, he pushed himself each day in the athletic training room to return stronger than before,” said Davis.

Along with Hilz’s work ethic, having an athletic trainer on hand to give an immediate evaluation and referral proved critical to his recovery. Davis helped challenge Hilz’s weaknesses, build upon his strengths and monitor his progress.

Benefits of having an athletic trainer

“My heart sank when I got the call from Jordan but was optimistic that his senior season wouldn’t be over,” said Hilz’s mother, DeAnn, after his initial injury.

Knowing that Legacy has its own athletic trainer on site gave her confidence. She could tell Davis was invested in ensuring all things possible were being done to get him back on the court.

“It’s crucial, because it’s one less thing I have to worry about as a coach,” says Hilz’s basketball coach Jason Horner. “I like having an expert available that I can talk to about having a plan for a situation like Troy’s, and getting feedback on his progress as he fights to get back on the court.”

Davis loves being the head athletic trainer at Legacy High School. He can help each student athlete during pre-practice prep, post-practice needs and competitions. Since many students are multisport athletes, Davis can build relationships with them as the seasons progress.

Hilz said he couldn’t have made this recovery without the help of Davis. Every day in the athletic training room, athletes come not only to prep for practice, but also to hang out and chat with Davis.

“I love being able to help people. It was my goal throughout my undergraduate and master’s work to one day have my own athletic training room and athletes that I would be helping rehab,” Davis said. “To be an athletic trainer for an organization like Sanford that puts the care for the individual at the forefront of their mission is rewarding.”

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