When an ACL injury threatened a high school athlete’s dreams, the team at Atrium Health’s Musculoskeletal Institute got her back on the basketball court in time to wow college recruiters.

News | 2 years ago

Getting Josie Back in the Game

When an ACL injury threatened a high school athlete's dreams, the team at Atrium Health's Musculoskeletal Institute got her back on the basketball court in time to wow college recruiters.


Josie Hise’s basketball dreams began early. She hit the court for the first time at six years old, and by her teenage years, her sights were set on college ball. Then, as her sophomore year of high school ended, the unthinkable happened. She injured her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

“Josie had never been hurt before, and now she was being faced with what’s probably the worst injury for a ball player,” her mom Johanna Hise says. “It has the longest recovery time. It’s just bad. Junior year is when players start to get recruited, when coaches really start looking at them.”

Instead of just researching colleges, Johanna and Josie began researching surgeons, too. Johanna read everything she could about the surgery, so she’d be armed with questions when meeting doctors. They met with several surgeons, but didn’t feel comfortable with any they met. They sought a surgeon with experience getting high-level athletes back to their sports. Quickly. Through her persistence and a recommendation from a Major League Baseball athletic trainer, Johanna learned of a surgeon in Charlotte with experience with high-performing athletes, Claude “T.” Moorman, III, MD.

Dr. Moorman, president of Atrium Health’s Musculoskeletal Institute, answered all of Johanna and Josie’s questions, explaining how he would perform the surgery and the reasons behind those decisions. “Dr. Moorman never made us feel rushed,” Johanna says. “He was willing to answer all of our questions and spend as much time with us as it took to make us feel comfortable.”

Nationally Renowned Experts, Close to Home

Musculoskeletal Institute is a collaboration of nationally renowned subspecialists who offer the most advanced musculoskeletal care in the Southeast – Atrium Health, OrthoCarolina and Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates. Even though the institute in Charlotte was an hour from their home near Hickory, N.C., Johanna knew the drive was worth it.

"One of the neat things about forming this institute is we have all the animals in the ark as it relates to the specialists. We have orthopedic surgeons, of course, and we have our primary care sports medicine doctors, in addition to athletic trainers and physical therapists," Dr. Moorman says. "That team working together is really the most effective way to care for athletes."

Dr. Moorman recognized that Josie’s would be a tough surgery, considering her injury. He understood the importance of basketball to Josie, so when deciding how to proceed, he chose the best option for her: using her tissue for the graft source, instead of allograph tissue from another source. Because of her young age, using her own tissue would offer Josie the most certain path back to her previous performance levels, even if it would involve a more challenging rehabilitation.

"Josie had the warrior's heart from the get-go, so I knew that her passion to return to play was so strong that she would be a great candidate to take advantage of that graft and see the positives of it without really being held back by the negatives,” Dr. Moorman says.

Returning to the Game She Loves

Josie’s surgery at Atrium Health Mercy with Dr. Moorman was a success. Johanna had been so impressed by the experience with Dr. Moorman and the Musculoskeletal Institute that she decided to keep driving Josie there for physical therapy. Because the institute combines primary care, sports, medicine, orthopedic surgery, physical medicine, rehabilitation, and even neurosurgery, patients like Josie are able to remain at the institute for multiple steps of their process. For two times a week over the next seven months, Josie returned to OrthoCarolina’s Sports Therapy Center for rehabilitation.

Each time Josie walked into the OrthoCarolina clinic, a wall of photos caught her eye. It was the Wall of Fame, full of faces of professional and collegiate athletes. They’d all come here hurt, too; they’d all recovered here, too. The wall gave Josie hope that she’d be back playing basketball again soon.

The physical therapy team at OrthoCarolina asked Josie to create a goal for her recovery. Her goal: to be back on the court during her junior year. The team created a plan to make that happen. Between visits, Josie had exercises to do at home to accelerate her recovery. During each visit, the staff asked her about basketball and about her college dreams. “They were interested in me. They would be there to say, ‘You got this. If you want to be back sooner, you’ve got to do this,’” Josie remembers. “They motivated me a lot.”

In the meantime, Dr. Moorman continued to reach out to Josie and Johanna during her recovery. They had follow-up appointments with him each month, and the anxiety that Johanna felt about her daughter’s care eased considerably.

“You can tell that patient care is Dr. Moorman’s top priority,” Johanna says. “It’s a level of patient care you don’t always get. The follow-ups, the personal relationships. I could call him right now and he’d be glad to talk to me.”

By early December, Josie was back on the court. A college has already offered her a spot on its team.

"I couldn't be more excited for her and prouder of the effort of the care team to get her back to that level,” Dr. Moorman says. “Obviously that's what gives us the most gratification – taking care of patients so that they can achieve their goals."

Josie beams to talk of another accomplishment: Her face is now on OrthoCarolina’s Wall of Fame. Amid the athletes who overcame tough injuries to return to the field and to the court, there’s now a picture of Josie, a soon-to-be collegiate basketball player whose face will now remind other injured athletes that they can do it, too.