Devon Atherton is a skateboarder. He’s got the skills, the look and the passion for this extreme sport.
“I would love to skateboard for the rest of my life,” the 19-year-old from Morgan County says. “I love skateboarding and it’s something I’m really passionate about.”
When Devon started skateboarding, however, he admits he was probably the last person who should have picked up a board. Just a few days after his first time on a skateboard, he fell and shattered his elbow.
“I thought about never picking up a skateboard again, but I did and I’ve loved it ever since that point in time,” he says.
Obviously no stranger to injury (he’s had 15 or 20 broken bones in addition to the elbow), a wrist injury in 2009 caught Devon off guard. While skating with some friends, he attempted to “180 a marble six set.” (For the non-skateboarders, he tried to jump a set of six stairs while doing a 180 degree turn in the air.)
“As I came down on the marble landing, it was way too slick. My wheels caught and my board shot out. I went to grab the ground behind me, hit my wrist and it kind of popped,” Devon remembers.
He knew immediately something was wrong. After his injury, he saw a primary care physician who took an X-ray of his injured wrist, but all it showed was a hairline fracture; a scar of sorts from a previous injury. Devon’s wrist continued to be in pain, however, so the next step was wearing a cast in hopes that the immobility and rest would heal the injury.
“I wore a cast for three months,” he says. “When they took it off though, my wrist was limp and it hurt worse than ever.”
After an MRI to help further diagnose the injury, Devon was referred to Otto Wickstrom, M.D., a fellowship-trained hand surgeon and member of IU Health Bloomington Hospital’s medical staff, for a consultation. During this appointment, Dr. Wickstrom confirmed that Devon had a scapholunate ligament injury, which means there is a disruption of the ligament between two bones in the wrist, the scaphoid and the lunate.
“These bones need to be able to work together in order for the wrist to have normal function,” Dr. Wickstrom explains. “If the two bones don’t move together, the wrist loses stability, strength, and a pretty predictive pattern of arthritis develops just a few years after the injury.”
Dr. Wickstrom explained to Devon, however, that there is a surgery, called a scapholunate ligament reconstruction, that could repair his wrist, allow him to have normal function, lessen the pain and stave off the onset of arthritis in his wrist for many years. After considering all of his options, Devon chose to move forward with surgery at the Southern Indiana Surgery Center, an IU Health Bloomington partner.
“The surgery we performed on Devon is actually a pretty complicated surgery. It involves drilling a hole in a couple of bones, taking part of one of the tendons in the wrist and using that to reconstruct the damaged ligament,” Dr. Wickstrom says. “It’s not an easy surgery to recover from and it usually takes about three to four months to regain range of motion and strength in the wrist.”
After surgery, Devon went through several weeks of occupational therapy to regain strength in his wrist. Today, he’s back to skateboarding. He’s a skateboarder at heart and is not letting injury or the fear of further injury slow him down.
“My wrist now actually feels great. I haven’t had any problems with it at all,” he says. “I don’t notice any difference.”