Coach learns lessons through her own injury rehab

Shouldering surgery, gaining insight into sports injuries

When your job is to get athletes in peak shape and performing at their highest level, it’s hard to admit you’re not there yourself. For Sarah Clinton, head strength and conditioning coach at Spalding University in Louisville, this was her reality for three years.

Knowing her job required her to demonstrate Olympic lifts, lead athletes through their daily workouts, help prevent sports injuries and remain physically active, she admits she avoided having her shoulder pain checked out.

“Walking around the weight room with a sling on and answering questions about how I got injured was not something I wanted to do,” Clinton said.

The truth is, injuries are not 100 percent preventable and even the most fit get injured. For her, it all began with shoulder pain after workouts. She did what she could to relieve it, including rest, activity modification and even a steroid injection, but the pain persisted. Finally, she decided to see a physician.

She sought out a physician who understood the physicality of her job and her desire to continue to be active. She chose an orthopedic specialist who works with her athletes at Spalding and was known for his expertise in shoulder injuries. That was Ryan Krupp, M.D., director of sports medicine for Norton Healthcare and a team physician for Spalding University.

Dr. Krupp diagnosed Clinton with a labral tear. The labrum is cartilage in the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place. Her best option for recovery was surgery to repair the tear.

Dr. Krupp understood the demands of Clinton’s profession and recognized her desire to get back to her “normal” — in his words the “best and worst thing about working with athletes.” He also knew she is a busy mom to two small children, which meant she needed to be able to stay active with them.

“You don’t have to push athletes to put in the work and get better, which is great,” Dr. Krupp said, “but sometimes you have to hold them back so that they allow their body to heal the right way before they progress.”

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Norton Sports Health is Louisville and Southern Indiana’s leading provider of treatment for shoulder injuries, with every type of athlete.

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Clinton is no stranger to pushing the physical limits and says that’s why she is so thankful for her follow-up with appointments with Dr. Krupp and his physician assistant, Jason Hupp, who made her feel comfortable and tailored her rehabilitation to her needs.

“They walked me through the exercises I could do in each stage of recovery and explained my limitations even if I didn’t always like hearing them,” she said. “They put me at ease to ask whatever crazy question I had.”

It’s been over a year since Clinton’s surgery and she is back to doing all the things she loves most with her job and her family life. It wasn’t always easy, but Dr. Krupp reminded her that rehabilitation and recovery from a labral tear is a marathon, not a sprint.

Being on the other side of a sports-related injury has given Clinton insight into the athletes she works with every day. As she pushes and motivates them to reach new heights in their athletic endeavors, her surgical experience has given her even more empathy for the injured athletes she works with and getting them back to their full potential.

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