High school swimmer competing through disease

By FRANK BONNER
The (Columbus) Republic

COLUMBUS — Columbus North swimmer Nick Green didn’t quite understand how severe his condition was when he was diagnosed with osteochondritis dissecans right before his freshman season.

Multiple doctors informed Green and his family that he could lose his ability to walk if he didn’t treat the condition in a timely manner.

Some bone in Green’s right knee was dying and getting absorbed, which was creating a hole. Doctors told him that more would continue to break off if he didn’t get it fixed.

“It definitely took me by surprise,” Green said. “I don’t really know the word for it. I was just shocked. I was very upset. I didn’t think I was going to have my high school season, to be honest. But we found a doctor who said I could swim and have my high school season.”

Green finished his freshman swim season before having his surgery in March. Doctors had to drill on the sides of his knee and insert screws to establish blood flow for his bone to grow.

The doctors took bone from his hip and partially filled the hole with bone plugs in hopes of having the rest of his bone grow back. Green received good news when a doctor told him at his most recent checkup that the bone was growing back.

Green’s next check up is on Thursday, where doctors will check the progress and see if any screws in his knee have migrated.

Green, who has been swimming competitively since he was 6 years old, wasn’t sure if the surgery would work, which put his entire swimming career in jeopardy. Fortunately for Green, he spent eight weeks on crutches, but was allowed back in the water just two weeks after the surgery.

Green eventually transitioned to a custom-fit unloader knee brace to help shift the weight from the healing portion of his leg. He participated in physical therapy once a week at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for about four months.

Although he could get back in the water, Green wasn’t allowed to kick for six months. He put a pull buoy between his legs to prevent himself from kicking, which put a lot of strain on his upper body muscles.

Green had to push off with one leg for his flip-turns and did only upper body lifts in the weight room. He couldn’t even carry weights around because he couldn’t have any more than the weight of his back pack weighing down on him. Green spent almost an entire year not kicking his legs in the water.

“It’s just a long process, and it’s still not over,” Green said. “They said it’s going to take up to two years to completely heal all the way because I guess bone grows back really slowly.”

Green still is dealing with a lot of pain, but said he is happy he still gets to compete this year. He swims the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events for the Bull Frogs and is also hoping to get on relay teams this year.

Green is not yet able to do any impact activity like running, but his doctor informed him that moving his leg around in the pool can actually be good for his recovery.

Green is back to regular swimming workouts and competitions for his sophomore season. He isn’t all the way back to where he was, but is slowly working on getting there. North coach Logan Schaefer said they both have been working on focusing on the things Green is able to do and do the best they can.

“I think once we start to move and progress overall to getting back to full swimming, I think those things that we could do are going to be some strengths as we build back into more of the kicking and those types of things that we couldn’t do a whole lot of recently,” Schaefer said.

Green already is getting close to the times he swam last season, which is a good sign of how his recovery is going. He has aspirations of gaining a college scholarship for swimming and said he is glad osteochondritis dissecans hasn’t taken those opportunities away from him. The goal is to be back at 100 percent by next season.




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