Physical therapy returns former athlete to activity | Ascension

Physical therapy returns former athlete to activity

As a high school and college athlete, Ryan Waterson suffered injuries to right knee, but always bounced back quickly.

Then two years ago, Ryan tore the meniscus in his left knee completely in half while playing basketball and the now 35-year-old personal trainer knew the road to recovery would be challenging. After seeking treatment in Wichita, his only options were to completely cut out the meniscus.

“I knew without a meniscus I would be facing a high likelihood of arthritis sooner than later and a knee replacement in the near future. I want to stay active to be able to play with my son as he grows up,” he says, so he found an out-of-state specialist who was willing to repair rather than just remove the torn meniscus in his knee.

While making the repair, the surgeon discovered a bone deformity that caused Ryan’s weight to be distributed unevenly and would likely be the source of his meniscus tears. Fixing the bone abnormality would require two separate high tibial osteotomy surgeries on both knees, followed by six to 12 months of physical therapy for each knee.

Not eager for more surgery, Ryan decided he would make the high tibial osteotomy a last resort. But within a year, the pain had become so unbearable that he decided it was time. Local orthopaedic surgeon Daniel Prohaska, MD, performed a high tibial osteotomy on Ryan’s first knee in July 2020 and his second one four months later in October.

The hardest part: Physical therapy.

Fortunately, he was able to work with Lori Burton, physical therapy assistant and Moncia Downs, PT, at Ascension Via Christi Therapy Center at St. Teresa. Lori had been Ryan’s athletic trainer when he was a student athlete at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School years earlier.

“Having both Monica and Lori work with me as I went through physical therapy made all the difference. Lori knew the history of my previous injuries, and she knew my limits and even how to slow me down when I was trying to do too much,” he says.

"During my recovery, my son Oscar was learning to walk, and people joked that he would be able to walk before I did,” says Ryan. “Funny enough, he did.”

But with the help of physical therapy, Ryan is feeling better than he has in a long time. Prior to the bilateral high tibial osteotomy and the physical therapy with Lori and Monica that followed, he was having difficulty even demonstrating exercises to his personal training clients let alone pursuing his own fitness goals.

“It feels great to know I can confidently run and jump and walk without pain, just as I did 20 years ago,” says Ryan, who will begin working on his own Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree at WSU this summer.

“This experience definitely inspired me to become that trusted source by going through it myself and seeing what physical therapists can do to help people,” he says.

“At the end of the day, the most valuable piece of my recovery is getting to play with my son, nieces, and nephew as they grow up and be running beside them as they discover life instead of sitting out on the side.”

To learn more about Ascension Via Christi Physical Therapy, go to

Ryan and his family