Geisinger athletic trainer Gina Marotta, MS, ATC, CSCS has cared for the student athletes at Bloomsburg Area High School in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania for nine years, so she knows most of them and their families. One family in particular, the Rankin family, had four athletes come through the sports program in the time that Marotta has been there, and she was now training their youngest – Blake.
“Blake was the Bloomsburg High School quarterback, and a very good one,” says Marotta. “In his junior year he had already secured a scholarship to play football at Rutgers University.”
But a game-changing event occurred in the first drive of the first playoff game of his senior year. A tough hit left his ankle broken and dislocated. Blake knew immediately he had suffered a serious injury; he wondered if he would ever play football again.
Marotta was at that game as the team athletic trainer and provided immediate assistance to Blake. She made sure he got rapid transport to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
Meanwhile, Blake’s mom and family watched the events unfold before their eyes. “Blake is our youngest, and to see such an injury was just devastating,” says Kim Rankin, Blake’s mom. “I saw his dream of playing football at the collegiate and professional level stripped from him in
But in the end, this dream was never in jeopardy thanks to Gerard Cush, MD, fellowship-trained orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon at Geisinger Medical Center, performed an intricate surgical procedure known as a plate and screw fixation with ligament repair.
“Ankle injuries are not uncommon among high-level athletes,” says Dr. Cush. “But, with these advanced techniques we were able to minimize immobilization and to maximize recovery. Plus, athletes like Blake have an unusual drive and are often able to recover faster than the average patient.”
After the 90-minute outpatient surgery, Blake underwent considerable rehabilitation at Geisinger HealthSouth Rehabilitation. He worked with two therapists several times a week who pushed him to get back to top form. Marotta was also there, working with Blake in school and being the voice of reason about what his limits were when he returned to throw the javelin for the track team that spring.
“Dr. Cush was just great,” says Blake. “I couldn’t have had a better doctor.” Adds Blake’s mom, “Dr. Cush and his team were able to get Blake to college. He was the facilitator of a kid’s dream, to play college football. I know Blake’s results were, in large part, thanks to Dr. Cush’s training and the fact that he performs so many of these procedures on high level athletes.”
The big test came when Blake learned he had been invited to play in the Big 33 game – a high school pro-bowl game for Pennsylvania high school football athletes who would form a team and compete against elite high school football athletes from Ohio. “I wasn’t sure if my ankle was 100%,” says Blake. “But I decided to test it out. I was definitely nervous at first, but after the first hit I knew I was fine. It was at that moment I was most thankful for Dr. Cush, my therapists, Gina and everyone who pushed me to that point.”
Blake threw two touchdown passes in that game, and was selected as the Most Valuable Player.