SUNBURY, PA -- Margo Graybill and MiKayla Neff have spent countless hours playing together on the Shikellamy High soccer field. But when the girls' soccer team's lone seniors stepped on it for the start of practice in August, it had new meaning.

That's because they've both made it back from injuries that sidelined them for nearly all of last season. They returned with a big assist from the Geisinger Sports Medicine team.

A defender, Graybill was the first to go down during a summer league game with a recurrent ligament injury in her left ankle. Mike Elder, Geisinger's certified athletic trainer at Shikellamy High School, assessed the injury and told her that she'd need surgery, requiring her to miss the season.

Dr. Gerard Cush, a Geisinger foot and ankle specialist, performed the surgery on Aug. 28.

Two days later, she was on the sidelines to cheer her teammates on at the season opener. That's when Neff, a forward/midfielder and her friend since the third grade, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee.

She would have surgery by Dr. Daniel Feldmann, Geisinger Medical Center's chief of sports medicine, two weeks later.

Graybill was on crutches and in a boot until November before starting physical therapy. She resumed training in February and playing games again in March - slowly returning to her old self right before the start of the season.

Neff began rehab exercises the day after her surgery. And while her mom, Shari, says it was a painful experience so soon after the surgery, it kicked her into an intensive year-long rehab program. She first returned for a summer pick-up game in June and promptly scored a symbolic goal.

"It was the first time I had scored since my injury, so I was very proud," Neff said. "It's nice being on the field and not having any pain, knowing I did all my rehab and that I almost feel 100 percent."

Both of them spent much time rehabbing with Elder, who is quick to credit Geisinger's Orthopaedic Institute for their prompt returns.

"The unique experience I have with our team doctor, Gary Kemberling, and our chief sports medicine doctor, Dan Feldmann, lends itself to a very unique situation," Elder said. "I can call them 24-7 and they're going to answer my phone call and take my text, and they're going to see a kid in a day."

And that care has Shikellamy's senior leaders back where they want to be.

"It feels really good to know that we can contribute again and go back out on that field and help our team," Graybill said. "I was really excited to step back out on it for a game because I hadn't played one in two years."

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