Page ContentFootball players know the risk of playing such a physically-demanding contact sport. But the love of the game keeps them coming back. When a devastating injury on the field threatened to take Greenville High School student Nick Mapps out of the game for good, his family turned to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joshua Acree to help take him off the bench.
A huge blow
Nick Mapps is no stranger to working hard to achieve a goal. By his junior year of high school, he was the leading rusher and receiver for the Greenville High School Lions’ football team.
On October 20, 2017, everything changed in a matter of seconds.
“I was coming in motion, getting the ball, and I ran for about 10-15 yards. Then, one of the defenders dove at my knee and the bottom of my cleats stuck into the ground. I couldn’t move. He just kept coming and they all jumped on my back,” said Nick, recalling the moments in the game against Marshall High School that led up to his injury.
“My leg just snapped,” he said.
Fans in the stand recall seeing the lower part of Nick’s leg in the shape of an L. It was completely perpendicular to his other leg.
As Nick laid on the ground, he didn’t feel much at first. But when he tried to move, he was met with excruciating pain.
As the Marshall ambulance team made their way on the field, the Lions’ athletic director and head coach, Darren Duke, tried to convince Nick not to look. But he couldn’t resist.
“Coach Duke was covering my eyes, telling me not to look at it. But I was getting up, trying to see,” said Nick.
As they loaded him into the ambulance, Nick remembers asking for his mother who had been unable to attend the game. The emergency responders prepared to pop his dislocated leg back in place, just as a sedative rendered Nick unconscious.
Paging Dr. Acree
Nick had suffered a traumatic knee dislocation and had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, and his posterolateral corner—more commonly known as the ACL and PCL. Of the four major ligaments in the knee, Nick had torn two. His injuries would require surgery. But his mother, Kristi, was focused on getting him back home to Greenville before moving forward.
Luckily for Nick, another team mom put his mother in contact with Dr. Joshua Acree who began making plans to treat his injuries. An orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist, Dr. Acree joined Hunt Regional Medical Partners
from Pittsburgh, where he was the team physician for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Naturally, he was the first choice for Nick’s surgery.
“As I was on my way to the Marshall hospital, I got a call from Dr. Acree. He asked if we would rather have Nick’s surgery performed in Marshall or in Greenville. I told him we wanted him here,” said Kristi, adding that Dr. Acree even offered to make a house call when they returned home.
It was the middle of the night when Nick and Kristi arrived home from Marshall. True to his word, Dr. Acree was there the next morning.
“He visited with him. He started him on the things that he needed and gave him his pain pills. He was really, really helpful. I’ve never seen a doctor who cared so much,” said Kristi.
The surgery would fix his knee, but Nick’s season was over. He was told it would be at least 10 months before he was able to return to athletic activity.
On the day of his surgery, Nick was nervous. But more than anything, he was ready to be put back together.
“I was a little scared, but mostly I was just ready to get it over with,” said Nick.
Until his injury, Nick accounted for over 40 percent of the team’s yards. Now, he was stuck in a hospital bed watching the Lions finish the season without him.
Nick’s surgery was a success. Dr. Acree was able to repair his torn ligaments
without any complications. He would have a painful recovery, but he would be back.
After five days in the hospital, Nick was discharged. He was ready to begin rehabilitation.
Putting in the work
For the next five months, Nick spent most of his free time in rehab
, working on regaining the strength he had lost.
“They had me working on my leg. I couldn’t bend it at all, it was so hard to me,” said Nick.
Even though the rehab process was hard, Nick pushed through the pain, attending rehab sessions three times a week.
“After I finished each workout, it would be sore,” he said.
From December through April, Nick tested the limits of his healing leg, determined to play football his senior year.
His mother, Kristi, says he was almost ready to give up. Thankfully, he kept going.
“It was so much pain he wanted to give up, and I told him no. It gets hard before it gets easier. So you have to just be patient,” his mom said.
“They kept pushing me and keeping positive things in my head,” said Nick.
After months of hard work and difficult exercises which pushed him to the brink of quitting, he was discharged and cleared to play. He would start his senior year back on the field he loves.
Back on the field
Ten months after his injury, Nick says he feels great and is ready to play again, thanks to Dr. Acree and his surgery team.
“I didn’t think all of this was going to work out. In my head I was just saying, ‘I don’t think it’s going to go right,’” said Nick, who was unsure if he would ever be able to be a part of the team again.
“But Dr. Acree talked to me, and I realized, ‘yeah, I trust him.’ He said he was going to get me back,” said Nick.
And get him back to health he did.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way from where I was. At first, I didn’t think I was going to be able to get back out there and do what I used to do,” said Nick.
“I just stay in the weight room working on it every day,” said Nick.
Even after such a traumatic experience, Nick says he isn’t scared to get hurt again. In fact, he says he doesn’t even think about.
“I’m just ready to get out there and play,” he said.