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Believe In Your Full Potential: Chris' Story

Chris of Brownsburg is far from your typical teenager. When the 17-year-old isn't perfecting his baseball swing at Brownsburg High School, he can be found crushing the competition as a defenseman for the Junior Fuel. Aside from sports, Chris has a passion for physics and aviation, is currently in the top 17 percent of his class, and participates in school clubs such as DECA and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

In any activity he pursues, Chris' competitive nature and natural leadership skills shine through. "I've always been tossed into a leadership role, so I'm used to it," he says. "In hockey, I tell the team to not give up and to make sure they finish their hits. If we try our hardest, even if we don't win, then at least we gave it our best."

Chris' teammates admire his mental and physical toughness—so when he collapsed in pain during hockey practice, they knew it had to be serious. "I was skating, and I felt my back pop," Chris recalls. "I fell and couldn't stand up. People had to help me off the ice, which wasn't a good sign because I usually skate off anything."

Pinpointing the cause of pain


The next morning, Chris met with sports medicine physician Dr. Robyn Fean, who specializes in a variety of sports-related injuries. "Sports medicine is usually the entry point to treatment. Many people don't necessarily know what is wrong or how they need to be treated," Dr. Fean explains. "Chris was pretty uncomfortable the first time I saw him, so there was some pressure to initially get him feeling better, and then get him back on the ice as quickly as possible."

After a thorough exam, Dr. Fean concluded Chris' symptoms were due to a herniated or bulging disc in his spine. "He had been doing some significant weightlifting in the weeks prior to the pain starting," Dr. Fean says. "He tried to push through the pain, but it became worse with pretty much any movement."

Once she reached a diagnosis, Dr. Fean suggested next steps. "With bulging discs, I usually recommend getting started on a strong anti-inflammatory or a steroid burst, and then physical therapy," says Dr. Fean. "I talked it over with Chris and his parents, and we agreed to that approach. If he didn't respond well to physical therapy, we would then get an MRI."

At Hendricks Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, Dr. Fean and her colleagues work closely with a team of physical and occupational therapists, orthopedic surgeons and other healthcare specialists to provide patients with a seamless continuum of care. She primarily treats patients at Hendricks Regional Health Brownsburg Hospital, where "we have an amazing setup," she says. "Physical therapy is right next to my office, so we're able to easily collaborate on patient care."


Starting the healing process


Chris began seeing Ryan McNeeley, Senior Physical Therapist at Hendricks Regional Health. "The first day I saw Chris, just like with any physical therapy patient, we sat down and talked about what went on in his history and how the injury happened," Ryan says.

Shortly into their meeting, Ryan discovered the trigger for Chris' situation. "He had good mobility. He had great strength," Ryan recalls. "But it became more apparent when we started looking at how Chris squatted. Squatting with no weight, he'd do fine. As we added weight, he had to compensate. His back wasn't strong enough to handle putting that kind of force on his shoulders, so when he did, he would cheat in his lower back."

During their sessions, Ryan taught Chris exercises and techniques to build stability and help prevent further injury. "I did movements to strengthen my back and release the tension," Chris says. "We did traction for three or four appointments, and then we started working on my form and trying to rebuild my back. About a week into it, I felt relief."

After four weeks of physical therapy, Chris returned to practice with the Junior Fuel. "I try to prepare all of my patients, including Chris, that nothing's really a quick fix," Dr. Fean says. "But we make sure to balance the athlete wanting to get back to their sport quickly, while also treating them appropriately and making sure they're safe to go back."

Finding support at school


The following spring, Chris saw Dr. Fean again. This time around, he broke his thumb during a varsity baseball game at Brownsburg High School. "I was catching and the pitcher threw a wild ball," recalls Chris. "When I jumped up to grab it, the ball hit the wrong spot of the glove. My thumb was swollen and dislocated."

Chris met with Dr. Fean in the training room at Brownsburg High School. Every week, she visits the school to advise athletic trainers and treat student athletes. Through their school partnerships, Hendricks Regional Health provides a dedicated team of athletic trainers, sports medicine physicians, physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons to schools across Hendricks and Putnam Counties. "Hendricks provides a continuum that includes everything from pre-participation physicals in the spring, all the way to a surgical procedure," says Kelli Waggoner, Athletic Director for Brownsburg Community School Corporation. "We always want our student athletes to be able to compete at their highest level, and to do that, we need a team partner like Hendricks Regional Health."

An X-ray showed a fracture in Chris' thumb. He was out for the rest of the season, but didn't miss a game. "I sat on a bench in the dugout and was there for moral support," he says.

"Chris is one of my favorite types of athletes," adds Dr. Fean. "In sports, he's extremely aggressive, but when you meet him in person, he's quiet. He's very kind, very intelligent. He's also very resilient. When he comes in with injuries, his expectation is to get back soon, but he's reasonable about his treatment as well."

Leading with passion

Like many student athletes, Chris' affinity for sports started at a young age. "Growing up, I played every sport known to man with my older brother and the neighborhood kids. We played basketball, Wiffle ball, street hockey—you name it, we played it."

When he was five, Chris joined a t-ball league. At 11 years old, he asked his dad to start playing hockey. In middle school, he also picked up basketball and football. By high school, he narrowed his focus solely to baseball and hockey. "My parents have always supported us," Chris says. "They want to see my brother and me happy and doing what we love. They've always said it's about us and our opportunities."


As a junior, Chris is now focused on his opportunities post-graduation. "I've started the application process for the Army, Navy and Air Force," he says. "My grandpa was in the Vietnam War and was also a sheriff and cop. My other grandpa was a cop. My dad's a cop. My uncles were cops. We're just full of service for other people. I thought there's no better way for me to serve than by joining the military."

Wherever his path may lead him, Chris plans to leave his mark along the way. "I've never seen myself as a follower. I see myself as a motivator. Leaders make sure that others succeed to the best of their ability."

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