Contributed by Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center
Ricardo De Los Rios has played soccer since he was a kid. The rec teams from his childhood turned into high school and then eventually college squads. Eight years after undergrad, the love of the game motivated him to play on an elite team made up of former collegiate athletes, like himself.
It was during a game in August 2020 when he heard a “pop” — something most athletes realize is not a good thing.
“I heard this noise and I looked around to see who kicked me. When there wasn’t anyone, I knew pretty quickly what had happened,” remembers Ricardo.
The then 29-year-old had ruptured his Achilles tendon, a devastating injury for any athlete, but especially a soccer player.
Ricardo’s father recommended Robert Toomey III, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, and a podiatrist with Sentara Foot and Ankle Center.
Dr. Toomey assessed the severity of the injury and scheduled surgery for the next week.
Ricardo was instantly at ease. “Dr. Toomey was honest with me about the recovery and had a clear plan of action. He had performed this procedure before and was successful, plus he’s a sportsman.”
Ricardo’s 90-minute surgery turned into a 3-hour procedure. Once under anesthesia, Dr. Toomey discovered the damage was more severe than initially thought. “His Achilles was shredded and non-salvageable. His damage was far more extensive than preoperatively thought,” Toomey said.
Dr. Toomey was able to alter his plan and repair the Achilles with a cadaver graft impregnated with bone marrow aspirate. During this procedure, Dr. Toomey used Ricardo’s own stem cells and a cadaver graft to provide his patient with a state-of-art repair, which matched his active lifestyle.
“The use of allograft cadaver is rare in Achilles repair. There are only case reports written on this. We do know ACL’s have been repaired with cadaver allograft; in fact, I have one such repair in my left knee,” explains Dr. Toomey. “Typically, when the entire Achilles tendon is non-salvageable, we perform a flexor tendon transfer, and the patient is then in an ankle foot orthoses (AFO) brace for the rest of their life.”
Given Ricardo’s age, athleticism and fitness level, Dr. Toomey thought he would be an ideal candidate for this innovative surgery.
Ricardo, who had always been a goal-oriented athlete, set his sights on recovery. Given the isolation of the pandemic and his limitations during recovery, he struggled with a loss of identity. “I’ve loved playing soccer since I was 6, this was a big change.”
Ricardo didn’t back down from the challenge. Over the next 9 months, he spent several days a week completing a rigorous physical therapy schedule. His hard work was rewarded when he graduated physical therapy and Dr. Toomey cleared him to play again.
“I was excited to play again, but a little nervous. I arrived 50 minutes early, just to warm up,” shares Ricardo.
His efforts paid off when he scored a goal during his first time back on the field.
“I, 100%, would recommend Dr. Toomey whole-heartedly. He helped guide me through a very terrible moment,” says Ricardo. “Sentara was great. The staff was insanely nice and during a pandemic I felt very safe. Everyone made me feel very comfortable.”
Dr. Toomey is just happy he was able to help Ricardo and support his love of the game.
“I was very lucky to have such a driven patient as Ricardo. He really made a difficult repair an easier recovery with his dedication,” explains Dr. Toomey. “Because of that, he won’t need any long-term bracing.”
Learn what the Sentara Foot & Ankle Center can do for you. Call 1-855-704-FOOT or visit sentara.com/footankle.