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ACL Revision Helps High School Softball Player Realize Her Division I Dreams

When her college career was on the line, Chrissy Rabenold turned to Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Chrissy Rabenold was destined to play softball. The Northampton Area High School senior and Stars National middle infielder started playing the sport when she was 5 years old. By the time she was 8 years old she was playing on tournament teams. At 12 years old she had her sights set on playing softball for an NCAA Division I college.

“Chrissy has natural talent and has worked hard to compete at a national level,” says Janelle Rabenold, Chrissy’s mother. “She primarily plays middle infield, but enjoys helping her team wherever she’s needed. It’s always been her goal to play at the highest level possible.”

Chrissy encountered several setbacks along the way to reaching her goal. As a sophomore, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus, and had ACL reconstruction surgery with another orthopedic group. Through hard work and dedication, she returned to softball and was thrilled when she received an offer to play for University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG), a Division I college.

Unfortunately, just a month after giving her verbal commitment to UNCG she encountered another setback when she re-tore her ACL. “I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as the first time I tore my ACL, so I was hoping maybe it was just my meniscus,” Chrissy says.

An MRI confirmed that Chrissy re-tore her ACL. Unhappy with the approach her former orthopedic surgeon suggested, Chrissy decided to get a second opinion from orthopedic surgeon Wayne Luchetti, MD, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute.

A new approach with lasting results

When Chrissy tore her ACL the first time, her surgeon removed the damaged ligament and replaced it with a combination of tendon from her hamstring as well as tendon tissue from a deceased donor. However, Dr. Luchetti felt this time she would have better success with a different approach.

“I recommended using a quadricep autograft for her revision because studies have shown it to be superior and have greater flexibility. I’ve used it many times and have had great results. I also suggested stitching an internal brace around her ACL for additional support,” Dr. Luchetti says.

For Chrissy, it was important that her ACL was strong enough to withstand the demands of her college softball career. Both she and her mom had confidence in Dr. Luchetti and the procedure he suggested.

“We were really impressed with his knowledge of student-athletes and her injury, and we felt comfortable with how he approached her surgery and long-term recovery. Dr. Luchetti took the time to explain everything to us and even went over the research,” Janelle says.

The surgery was done as an outpatient procedure, and Chrissy started physical therapy the next day.

“I noticed right away there were more athletes and people my age at physical therapy. I could tell they focused on athletes, and it made me feel like I was at the right place.” - Chrissy Rabenold

Dr. Luchetti recommended Chrissy work with physical therapist Mike Price, with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Rehabilitation Services, because he specializes in treating athletes.

Physical therapy with a twist

Since Chrissy went through physical therapy after her first ACL surgery, she thought she knew what to expect. But she says physical therapy at LVHN was much different.

“I noticed right away there were more athletes and people my age at physical therapy. I could tell they focused on athletes, and it made me feel like I was at the right place,” Chrissy says.

The goal of Chrissy’s physical therapy was to restore her range of motion and strengthen the muscles around her ACL. However, since Price knew she played softball, he also focused on her balance.

“Balance is important in softball, and since she injured the leg she fires with, I wanted to make sure that we spent a lot of time working on that area. In the end, it will make her a better player,” Price says.

As she progressed through physical therapy, Price began to incorporate more exercises geared toward softball and specifically her position as shortstop. Chrissy was grateful for the specialized therapy.

“It made such a huge difference in my recovery and my game,” she says.

Return to play

On November 9, 2022, Chrissy officially signed her letter of intent to play softball at UNCG. Shortly after, she made the difficult decision to skip her senior season of softball. “It was a hard choice, but I really wanted to focus on continuing my recovery and didn’t want to risk getting hurt before college,” she says.

Since she completed physical therapy, Price suggested Chrissy work with certified athletic trainer Frank Lupin, with Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute’s Return to Play program. The program is designed to help athletes maximize their performance following an injury. Chrissy felt the program was a great fit, especially since Lupin partners with 7 Deadly Spins, a softball training facility in Whitehall, where she has trained the past two years.

“Frank has helped me regain my confidence. I felt good after therapy, but he helped me really break down the mechanics of everything I was doing so I would be even better and avoid another injury,” Chrissy says.

During their weekly sessions, Frank works with Chrissy on the mechanics of everything she does while playing softball. Some of the things they focus on are the way she pitches and hits the ball, and even her stance while on base.

Chrissy is playing tournament softball this summer and is looking forward to taking the field at UNCG for her freshman season. She credits the Orthopedic Institute with helping her achieve her goal.

“I’m so grateful to everyone. It was really a team effort to get me where I am now. I can confidently say I am ready to play Division I softball,” Chrissy says.

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

The region’s leader in joint, spine and orthopedic care gets you moving again.

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Sports Rehab

Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) provides comprehensive rehabilitation care for athletes of all ages and abilities. If an injury prevents you from enjoying the sport you love, we work with you to create a treatment plan that gets you moving again, fast.

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