A torn ACL certainly was painful for sophomore Chicagoland Jewish girls basketball player Lena Rabinowitz, but what didn’t hurt was having an orthopedic surgeon for a father, who’s experienced the same injury to boot.
The three-sport athlete (also soccer and volleyball) injured her right knee during soccer season in April 2012, and underwent emergency surgery two days later. With the guidance of her father, Dr. Richard Rabinowitz — who operates Barrington Orthopedics but did not operate on his daughter — she began a rehabilitation program to build strength in the repaired knee.
“My dad tore his ACL five years ago, and also when he was in high school football,” Rabinowitz said. “So he knows the proper remedies, and how to massage the knee. What he did certainly helped, but he really helped by motivating me to do physical therapy.”
That included riding a stationary bike, and walking up and down stairs. Rabinowitz said that within the first week of rehab, she was able to move her leg 90 degrees. About three months later, she went back to training for volleyball, and returned in time for the 2012 season, helping the Tigers win a regional championship.
“My dad says an ACL injury is a sprint, not a marathon, so you have to take it slow in the beginning,” Rabinowitz said. “You have to wait for the right time to push yourself. Then, it’s all mental once you realize it’s fine. You trust the knee and body again, and go back to playing. It still hurts, but I can go out and play.”
Rabinowitz said the customized brace she wears during competition serves as a reminder — both of the injury and the need to, “keep the right stance and posture. When driving to the basket, I have to be hesitant in how I land. I can’t be out of control and land wrong.
“(The knee) is definitely not going to be the same for a year or so, so I’m hoping to have a fresh start next year.”
First-year Tigers coach Tom Kalleses is looking forward to that as well.
“She’s really stepped up and played well for us in some clutch situations this season,” he said. “But when she’s fully healthy, she has the potential to be very, very good.”