Knee replacement helps former athlete keep coaching
Knee surgery addressed the sports-induced arthritis Steve Aragon had lived with for years so he can still coach the next generation of athletes.
The 54-year-old North Barrington resident grew up playing baseball. He was a catcher, which called for lots of crouching down behind home plate. Years of playing baseball as a kid and as an adult caught up with him, causing pain and stiffness in his left knee.
When he decided to seek treatment, Steve met with Dr. Frank Bohnenkamp about his knee pain, and a treatment plan was developed that started off conservative before progressing to surgery.
“I did multiple cortisone shots, but Dr. Bohnenkamp was honest all the way through, saying at some point, I’d need a new knee,” he recalled.
Steve had total knee replacement surgery in October 2017 in Huntley. While he felt some immediate pain relief, he said the rehabilitation process was tough. He experienced complications from blood thinners he was taking, and he ended up needing a second procedure – a manipulation – to help his knee start bending again.
“Oftentimes, younger males with large muscle mass lay down scar tissue faster than they can regain their motion,” Dr. Bohnenkamp explained. “I see my patients back six weeks after surgery, and if their motion is poor, then I will manipulate the knee under anesthesia. It’s like six weeks of therapy in five minutes. They return to physical therapy five times a week for two weeks to help maintain that motion.”
Physical therapy after that was intense, too, but Steve said Dr. Bohnenkamp and his team closely communicated with him the entire time and made him feel as comfortable as possible.
“It was awesome,” he said of the surgery. “It made a total difference. The focus and dedication Dr. Bohnenkamp and the whole team at OrthoIllinois had was phenomenal. They were constantly adjusting my treatment protocol to what I needed, which only enabled me to get back on my feet quicker.”
Steve said Dr. Bohnenkamp warned him he might not get the full range of motion back in his knee – but he did, primarily due to his dedication to the rehab process.
“It exceeded my expectations for sure,” he said. “The old athlete in me kicked in, and my goal was to get back on the field as fast as possible. I went to physical therapy and said, ‘I’m in, tell me what to do.’
“Listen to exactly what they tell you to do, and you’ll be fine. I didn’t let the complications get me down.”
Steve’s catching days may be over, but he’s coached for 10 years for Phenom Illinois, a nonprofit group that prepares young players for competitive baseball. He said the surgery helped relieve his pain but also improved his ability to tackle his day-to-day responsibilities.
“As a coach, it’s my job to show up and be there for the young athletes on the field. Fixing my knee improved my quality of life, allowing me to still remain successful in my job and coach my team,” he said. “Dr. Bohnenkamp and his team are phenomenal. They get it. He really knows his patients, which is one of the things that makes him such a great physician.”