How to repair an athlete's dreams: USC Sports Medicine Center

Find out how USC Sports Medicine Center saved one athlete from being benched.

Palos Verdes High School was a long shot to take the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) football championship in 2015. But when the underdogs took the prize, their senior quarterback, Steven Delcarson, was showered with accolades. He was named the league’s most valuable player, the most valuable player in the CIF and Palos Verdes High’s athlete of the year.

The honors were particularly important to Delcarson because he, too, was something of a long shot. He’d seriously injured his knee just before starting high school, and had it not been handled better, his injury might have kept him on the bench. Thanks to the USC Sports Medicine Center, he was able to succeed on the field of play.

Sports have always been a big part of Delcarson’s life. He played football, basketball and lacrosse on school teams. After school and on weekends, his circle of friends often headed to nearby parks for games of pickup basketball or to kick soccer balls around.

It was during a routine tackling drill at football practice in 2011, one that Delcarson had done hundreds of times, that he somehow caught his foot on the field. An eighth-grader at the time, Delcarson knew his foot was stuck. Still, he tried to stay upright and wrenched his knee.

Delcarson took time off from sports to let his knee heal, plus underwent physical therapy to strengthen the muscles. But it wasn’t long before he had another collision on the football field, one where another player landed on top of his leg, which made him realize that his knee was in far worse shape.

“I felt the same thing that I felt during the first injury,” Delcarson says. His surgeon realized the meniscus was completely torn – Delcarson needed surgery. The injury was a complex tear, and repairing it would involve drilling through the growth plate in his knee, which could stunt his growth. Delcarson’s hometown surgeon referred him to George ”Rick” Hatch, M.D., assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Keck Medicine of USC and a faculty surgeon in the USC Sports Medicine Center.

According to Delcarson, Hatch explained clearly that there were risks because the injury was not a straightforward case. Repairing Delcarson’s knee would involve two surgeries and a lengthy recovery, during which time he would have to keep his knee completely straight to avoid another injury. There would also be months of physical therapy.

Delcarson had the surgery, and now says Hatch is the reason he was able to play both quarterback and linebacker as a senior at Palos Verdes, not to mention being recruited to play football at USC as well as several other universities. In the end, Delcarson chose to attend the University of Pennsylvania. Although he isn’t playing football this year, he may walk on as a sophomore.

Even if he doesn’t play college ball, Delcarson says the most important thing to him is that sports — even if just intramural or football in the park with friends — remains a part of his life.

“Sports has always been a part of my life, and I can’t imagine not having that, and I owe that completely to Dr. Hatch,” he says.

That’s The Keck Effect – more football, whether with friends or on a team.

Learn more at: ortho.KeckMedicine.org.

--Tribune Content Solutions for USC Keck

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