A high school football player from Mooresvile returned to the playing field this past fall after a devastating injury to his knee last year.

Nick Patterson is the quarterback for the Pioneers, but when he was tackled during a play, he remembers the distinct sound of a pop when it happened. “While I was running the ball, the guy tackled me and twisted my leg. I tore my meniscus,” says Patterson.

Meniscal tears are a fairly common injury in young athletes. It’s estimated close to 500,000 people suffer a meniscal tear every year in the US. 40% of individuals over the age of 65 have suffered a meniscal tear. It’s estimated less than 10% of tears occurring in patients over the age of 40 can be repaired.

Patterson was quickly evaluated for his injury and referred to Dr. Sean Calloway, an orthopedic sports medicine physician with Franciscan Health. “The meniscus is essentially a c-shaped ring of thick cartilage that I always describe as the chicken grizzle. It’s a very strong cushion of the knee,” Dr. Calloway said.

One year ago, Nick underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the meniscus. “All of this is done underwater. Even though you don’t see the bubbles or you don’t see any water,” said Dr. Calloway. “That’s the way we do this surgery. The knee is flooded with water and that allows us to see inside the knee joint.”

As part of the procedure Dr. Calloway also made several small holes in Nick’s knee bone. Stem cells from the bone aided in the healing. After the procedure, Nick was placed in a brace for 6 weeks. When Dr. Calloway was satisfied with how Nick was healing, he prescribed physical therapy.

“He was motivated, he was driven,” said Nick’s mother, Natalie. “I’ve never had to follow up with him.”

Nick was able to play football this past fall and says he didn’t run quite as much as he had in the past. But his passing skills improved. “I’m just trying to play at the next level, the highest level I can,” said Nick.