Healthy You - Every Day

Knee Injury Can’t Stop Ball Girl for Schuylkill Haven Football Team

When Madison Bensinger saw a cluster of football players thundering in her direction just off the home team sideline, she thought it a good idea to get out of the way. But as she backed up, the Schuylkill Haven Area High School football team ball girl got her foot caught in the kicker’s net behind her.

The 17-year-old clearly remembers what happened next.

“I went down in a pile of players laughing,” Bensinger says. “I couldn’t believe I had just gotten tackled. Then I tried to stand up and I realized I was not OK.”

“There was little doubt in my mind that Madison had a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) as the knee had already begun to swell.” - Stephen Evans, DO

It was the Hurricanes’ first game of the 2021 season (actually a scrimmage with Executive Education Academy Charter School because the scheduled opponent had to cancel due to COVID-19 complications).  It would be the last for Bensinger, who had been helping referees shuffle footballs in and out of Schuylkill Haven games since she was in the eighth grade.

From sideline to ER

“I was just a few feet over from Madison when it happened,” says Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute certified athletic trainer Mike Cerasoli, who has worked with Hurricane athletes for the last seven years. “I saw her knee had been hyperextended. She actually popped right up again pretty quickly, but she couldn’t really move. She was telling me that her knee hurt.”

Team physician Stephen Evans, DO, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine–Mauch Chunk Street in Pottsville, Pa., quickly joined Cerasoli in examining the injury to Bensinger’s left knee.

“There was little doubt in my mind that Madison had a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) as the knee had already begun to swell,” Evans says. “With these injuries, usually the MCL (medial collateral ligament) and the meniscus (cartilage between the knee joints) sustain damage as well.”

Cerasoli carried Bensinger to her family’s car and she was driven to the Emergency Room at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest. Evans’ suspicions in the ligament and meniscus tears were confirmed by an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) the next day.

Bensinger has had more than her share of bad luck with injuries during her high school career. While playing soccer, she sustained a hip flexor injury as a freshman and a toe ligament injury as a sophomore. Now, this knee injury would prevent her from playing her favorite sport, softball, during her junior season.

Still, she went right to work at coming back better than ever.

Preparing for surgery

“We started working on pre-hab exercises to strengthen the knee area before surgery,” Cerasoli says. “We did leg raises, hip abductions, different things to make the injured area as stable as possible.”

Neal Stansbury, MD, from LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine–1250 Cedar Crest, performed surgery on Bensinger on Oct. 20, 2021, 42 days after her injury, at LVHN–Tilghman in Allentown, Pa. Bensinger went home the same day of her surgery.

“We were able to repair the ACL arthroscopically,” Stansbury says. “We needed open surgery to repair the MCL and meniscus. It all went very well. Then I told Madison what I tell all my patients – recovery is about 30 percent what I was able to do, and 70 percent what she does after surgery. From everything I’ve heard since, she’s been extremely dedicated.”

Determination through rehabilitation

Bensinger spent eight months recuperating the knee at LVHN Rehabilitation Center–Schuylkill under the direction of physical therapist Jennifer Herndon. She also worked with Cerasoli between therapy sessions.

“I was able to take my first steps without crutches and a brace by Dec. 20,” Bensinger says. “I was walking again so quickly thanks to Dr. Stansbury, Jen and Trainer Mike.  I can’t thank them enough for all that they did for me.”

On July 30, Bensinger was cleared to practice softball again. Now a senior, she’s determined to finally play for the high school team next spring. She wasn’t so sure about returning to the football sidelines as a ball girl.

“I finally decided to go for it again,” says Bensinger, who is looking at colleges with the hope of becoming a physician assistant. “I wanted to prove a point that this injury wasn’t going to stop me. Today, I feel stronger than I ever have.”

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

Lehigh Valley Orthopedic Institute

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

Learn more

Explore More Articles