Down but Not Out
Needville High School freshman Cody Kalinowski lives for football. So it’s no wonder he was disappointed at the prospect of missing most of the season after breaking his left ulna (one of the two long bones in the forearm) during a scrimmage in late August. To the surprise of many, Cody returned to competitive play just six weeks after sustaining the injury.
The young athlete made an unusually speedy recovery, thanks to the arm immobilization, bracing and non-operative care prescribed by Matthew Koepplinger, D.O., M.S., an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. It probably helped that Cody followed his parents’ advice and drank a lot of milk. Additionally, he diligently followed the rehabilitation program prescribed by Bob Marley, a licensed athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist with the Institute.
Cody’s father, Aaron Kalinowski, was a high school and college athlete. He admits that being on the other side of the game as a parent can be nerve wracking.
“When Cody came out of the pile after making a tackle, he was limping,” said his father. “At first, my wife and I thought he’d hurt his ankle. Then we saw the trainer holding Cody’s arm to his side. We knew it wasn’t good.”
An emergency room visit confirmed an ulna fracture and Cody’s arm was promptly encased in a fiberglass cast. When the arm was X-rayed 19 days later, Aaron Kalinowski remembers Dr. Koepplinger coming into the examination room with a look of astonishment.
“I thought something was wrong,” Cody’s father recalled. “Dr. Koepplinger said that Cody had ‘put down a lot of growth’ and that the bone had closed on both sides so he released him to play.”
What the young Kalinowski quickly learned, however, when Marley asked him to lift a 5-pound weight, was that he still had some work to do.
“We had Cody work on dumbbell curls, bicep curls and other arm-strengthening exercises,” said Marley. “Within a week, he was practicing with his team wearing the custom, protective brace that Dr. Koepplinger constructed for him.”
As a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who has worked with athletes for years, Dr. Koepplinger is committed to helping players get back to their sport as quickly as possible. He also brings his own unique prospective to patient care because he has training, and is board certified, in osteopathic medicine.
“I try to think of the body’s natural healing capacity before anything else,” said the one-time athletic trainer for the Cincinnati Bengals. “Just because we can do surgery doesn’t mean we should.”
In Cody’s situation, Dr. Koepplinger felt the 5-foot- 8-inch, 155-pound athlete was a good candidate for non-operative care because his break was within the realm of satisfactory healing with a slight angulation that will correct itself as he grows. He also knew Cody’s parents would provide him with the necessary support.
Needless to say, Cody Kalinowski is happy to be back on the field. As a dual threat on both sides of the ball – he plays linebacker and guard – he appreciates Dr. Koepplinger’s care that allowed him to return to play so quickly.
“Most physicians would have put a plate in Cody’s arm, had him sit out from football and waited for the arm to heal,” said Marley. “Instead, Dr. Koepplinger treated Cody conservatively, without surgery, and gave him, and his parents, all the direction they needed for the fracture to heal as fast as possible.”