Foot Injuries Put Lives on Pause for Soccer Player, Busy Mom
Robin Jansson (paid endorsement) is a star defender for the Orlando City Soccer Club, thrilling thousands of screaming fans with every slide tackle and kick. Katie Erickson is a busy mom who is an executive at a Florida theme park – all while managing Type 1 diabetes.
The two strangers with totally different lives had one thing in common: Foot injuries that threatened to derail their futures.
Robin Jansson’s Story: Born To Play Soccer
Jansson’s feet were made for pressure. He trained his entire life to transform those feet into weapons on the field. But a routine play late in one match would test just how much pressure his feet could handle.
“I went for the ball sliding and got my right foot a little bit underneath me,” Jansson says. “I felt like a small burning sensation in the foot, but then it went away. So I was thinking like, ‘Oh, this is nothing big, I hope.’"
His hope would soon vanish.
“As soon as we found out about the injury, we had some concerns,” says Dr. Justin Mullner of Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute and the head primary care sports physician for Orlando City Soccer Club. An MRI and a CT scan showed a bony stress within the navicular bone.
I was thinking, “Will I get back to the field? Will I get back to the player that I was before?
- Robin Jansson
“It was likely something that was going to need surgery, and it was going to be a season-ending injury,” Dr. Mullner says.
“Robin's injury is not a common one, and it's not often that we operate on it,” says Dr. Choung. “It's usually in the setting of somebody who's high demand physically.”
Jansson made his decision quickly. “I wanted to do the surgery,” he says, “because this would be the best for my future career.”
Katie Erickson’s Story: Missing Out on Life
An orthopedic injury can be devastating for anyone – even if they’re not a star soccer player. “A patient may not be a professional athlete, but they all have a lot riding on a surgery,” Dr. Choung says.
Erickson certainly had a lot riding on hers.
As a Type 1 diabetic since early childhood, Erickson is used to dealing with adversity.
“It's a 24-hour-a-day disease,” Erickson says.
With the help of her diabetic alert dog Murphy, she never lets her condition keep her from living her life. “He can smell my blood sugar and tell me if it's too high or too low,” she says. “He has alerted me so many times over the last 10 years, and I know that he's helped me avert a lot of different emergencies. He doesn't really know he's a dog. He thinks he's a human.”
But eventually Erickson faced a complication that was beyond even Murphy’s help. What started out as plantar fasciitis in her foot quickly turned into a never-ending cycle of stress fractures.
“Every three months, she was in a boot on one foot and then the other and back and forth -- and sometimes even in two boots,” Dr. Choung says. “Katie is a person who doesn't heal bone well, and so we decided that we had to do something to change this, otherwise she would be stuck in this cycle indefinitely.”
That cycle of foot fractures had already kept her in a wheelchair for over two years. As a busy mother of two, trying to simultaneously climb the corporate ladder as an executive at a Florida theme park where mobility is important, her feet were holding her back.
“There were times when I was like, ‘This is going to be my life,’” Erickson says. “It was at a time when my children were 8 and 10 years old, and so I just felt like I was missing out on life. It was kind of devastating, honestly.”
Erickson turned to Dr. Choung and the medical team at Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute for a solution. “Anything that could fix what I was going through, I was ready to try,” she says.
Taking a Step Forward
Robin Jansson and Katie Erickson, two patients who couldn’t be more different from each other, shared one surgical specialist and a very similar outcome.
There were times when I was like, ‘This is going to be my life.’ I just felt like I was missing out on life. It was kind of devastating.
- Katie Erickson
While Dr. Choung inserted a stabilizing screw into Jansson’s navicular bone, for Erickson the procedure was a bit more complicated. “We did what's called a calcaneal osteotomy,” Dr. Choung says. “We cut her heel bone and we slid it laterally to the outside with the idea that it would lean and start putting stress on the inside of the foot or take stress off the outside to allow that fracture to heal.”
Erickson was hungry to get back to her life. “After I recovered from that surgery, it was amazing. I never had a stress fracture again,” she says. “I can walk pain free. We get to go play golf, we're going on vacations. To be able to walk with my family, it's amazing. There was a time when I had given up all hope. And Dr. Choung and Orlando Health changed that for me.
Jansson worried whether he would never play again. “Pre-surgery, I was a little bit nervous because I had never been through this before,” Jansson says. “I was thinking a little bit, “Will I get back to the field? Will I get back to the player that I was before?”
He was determined to do everything he could to heal, and that included post-surgery rehabilitation.
“Robin was very, very eager to follow our treatment plan once the surgery was completed, and he worked with the physical therapist and the nutrition staff, and really was, from day one, a great patient,” Dr. Mullner says.
Like Erickson, Jansson is thrilled to have his life back.
“I feel confident with having done the surgery,” he says. “I'm ready to go out there and give everything. The main thing is to just be back and playing soccer, which I love. And to do that with this squad and the staff, it's just pure joy.”