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Team USA paddler overcomes injury to pursue Olympic goals

Team USA paddler overcomes injury to pursue Olympic goals

Stanton Collins was not your typical middle school athlete. As a budding sprint kayak star with the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club (LCKC), there was nothing recreational in Collins’ training methods, as he tested limits both on the water and in strenuous gym and cardio sessions.

So when Collins injured his knee in a snow skiing accident, he crossed his fingers that the recovery would be short and quick, maybe a simple sprain that allowed a sharp return to his kayak regimen. Instead of improving, however, the pain lingered, derailing Collins’ plans and bringing he and his family to the realization that something more than simple rest was required.

At first he sought the help of physical therapy at Longstreet Clinic. It was there that trained therapists diagnosed something more severe and immediately connected Collins with Longstreet Clinic Orthopedics, where Derek Moore, M.D., a sports medicine specialist and orthopedic surgeon, determined that Collins was a candidate for arthroscopic surgery.

“I just thought it was a sprain, but after a week I knew something more damaging had happened, so we went to have it looked at, and Dr. Moore knew immediately that we might have to do something to it to get me back to normal,” Collins said. “He told me that the if we didn’t do something about it that the injury might have some long-term effects for me.”

Diagnostic tests revealed he’d suffered a small tear of his ACL — though it was a torn tendon at the back of the knee that was of particular concern to Dr. Moore.

“At first it seemed like Stanton might have had a torn meniscus or a partial tear in a couple of ligaments, so we completed an MRI exam and that revealed something not very common,” Dr. Moore said. “We wanted to clean that up to allow him to get started on his rehab right away.”

Being that Collins was an active preteen meant that immediate care and diagnosis was crucial and could have long-term repercussions to his goals of reaching the pinnacles of the sport.

“As an adult you have time to watch and see what happens in recovery, but in a preteen, especially, if you wait and the body grows you could have the potential for serious problems,” Dr. Moore said. “I have seen preteen patients that waited and then came back much later with problems, and they had grown three inches in the interim. That definitely changes the body and how it functions.”

Thanks to Dr. Moore sitting down with the entire Collins family (Stanton’s mother is Longstreet Clinic CEO Mimi Collins) and providing a full range of information — not only about the procedure, but about the recovery process and the intricacies of a growing body — the Collins’ opted for the arthroscopy, which involved only a small pencil-tip-sized incision in the knee and a minimum of invasiveness.

Working closely with Dr. Moore and the Longstreet Clinic Physical Therapy department, Stanton also coordinated a rehab process, post-operation, that allowed him to resume activity in a timely but safe manner.

He hasn’t looked back since.

“I had already been training for two-three years at that point, and I remember, not long after the surgery, I was right back on track,” Collins said. “It made a huge difference for me, and by talking with Dr. Moore and the physical therapy staff at Longstreet Clinic, I was able to keep working out, with some limitations, almost immediately. And I was back to full training very quickly. I had to wear a brace for a little bit, but it did not hold me back.”

Olympic dreams in focus

Indeed, the fully-healed Collins continued to burn up the water with LCKC and is now one of the top sprint paddlers in the nation, a full member of the United States senior team and an international competitor.

In fact, Stanton recently competed in the 2018 Senior World Championships in Portugal and narrowly missed out on competing in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics — and he is training hard toward a berth in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

“It’s pretty amazing to see how far I’ve come,” said Collins, who learned through his time with Dr. Moore just how powerful a simple arthroscopy procedure could be. “I never had another issue with that knee.”

For his part Dr. Moore enjoyed a process of his own discovery through Collins’ case.

“I didn’t know how big of a deal the legs were for kayaking. You think of it as an upper body activity, but the legs provide the base for everything,” Dr. Moore said. “It was a learning process about the sport itself, and it was fun for me to find out about it.”

Moore credits Longstreet’s comprehensive orthopedic, physical medicine and rehabilitation team with helping elite athletes heal and return to doing what they love and have dedicated their lives to.

“We are also fortunate because we have our own physical therapy department that understands what it means to be a high-level athlete. We had a therapist at that time who was very close to being an Olympian herself. And now we’ve got a couple of therapists that are very used to dealing with paddlers,” Dr. Moore said. “They know how the athlete trains, and they work so well with the athletes in post-operation rehab. The athletes then listen to them because of that understanding, and it’s a big help for everybody. It’s definitely fun when you see someone that you’ve helped succeed like that. He’s traveled the world, is a great young man and is obviously a great athlete.”