As good as new: Pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Miller Children’s & Women’s helps Ashley Hawkins lead her team after torn ACL

Ashley Hawkins was a two-sport athlete until she was in the seventh grade, when she decided to be fully dedicated to her favorite sport, basketball. Ashley began playing basketball at the age of five and instantly fell in love with it.

She played point guard on plenty of memorable teams, including her eighth-grade club team that was ranked the number one team in California. As she continued to play into high school, her hard work earned her a starting position on the Wilson High School girls varsity basketball team. As a freshman, she helped lead the team to an upset win over the number one team in the playoffs. After her first season, she looked forward to her sophomore season to help improve her team.

One day during practice drills, Ashley did a move she had done hundreds of times. When she planted, she felt her left knee give as she fell to the floor. When her father, Randy, picked her up from practice, she had to be helped to the car by a couple of her teammates.

Randy recalls that his daughter’s spirit never let her quit. “She’s such a warrior. She went to school the next day to take two important tests even though she was in pain. After school, I took her to the doctor.”

Ashley was referred to Kenneth Huh M.D., a pediatric orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with the Orthopedic Center at MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach. An MRI was performed to further evaluate her knee.

When she went back for her follow-up appointment with Dr. Huh, Ashley and her father expected the results to be mild, but unfortunately, that was not the case. Ashley had an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in her left knee.

Dr. Huh explained to Ashley and her father how the surgery would work and what the best options were.

“ACL tears commonly are associated with meniscus tears,” says Dr. Huh. “In Ashley’s case, this was true. Based on the MRI results and the fact that Ashley is a high-level basketball player, we decided that it would be best to reconstruct the ACL by using part of her own knee cap, bone-patella tendon-tibia bone (aka BTB).”

Dr. Huh is a board-certified pediatric orthopedic surgeon that specializes in the medical and surgical management of sports medicine injuries at Miller Children’s & Women’s. He is one of seven board-certified pediatric orthopedic surgeons that specialize in treating musculoskeletal conditions on the Care Team. The Care Team analyzes injuries and chooses the best treatment plan for each patient. The team’s goal is to develop a plan that educates patients on injury prevention strategies with an emphasis on avoiding repeat injuries.

Dr. Huh took the time to explain the difference in possible graft choices for reconstructing the ACL. The procedure to reconstruct Ashley’s ACL was done on a Friday night in December 2018. The surgery to repair her meniscus and reconstruct the ACL lasted about three hours. “I was really impressed with Dr. Huh and how he took the time he needed to do everything he could to make her better and get her back to where she wanted to be,” says Randy. “He did an amazing job.”

A week after she was released from the hospital, Ashley was ready to attack her physical therapy on her road to recovery. “She’s an athlete, so she works hard whenever she can,” says Randy. “She really looked forward to getting back to full health.”

A year after her injury, Ashley was back on the court doing what she loves most. As a junior returning from a serious knee injury, she helped her team beat a school rival for the first time in eight years. Ashley leads the Moore League in scoring, and if that isn’t impressive enough, she scored 40 points in one game this season. It’s fair to say that her ACL is feeling better and won’t stop Ashley from leading her team to success. She currently has colleges from the Big West Conference looking her way for possible scholarship offers.

Randy shared, “She’s playing without a brace now. She got right back in there, and her knee feels better than it ever did before. Earlier this year, Ashley’s high school team won the CIF Southern Section Division 3A Championship – the first championship for the program in 20 years.”

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