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Tanasia Miles felt the pop.
Just 30 seconds into her first scrimmage following a summer knee injury, the varsity basketball player took a shove from an opponent. Then a junior at The King’s Christian Academy in Callaway, Md., Tanasia had been “feeling good, dribbling, warming up” before she felt the burst of pain and fell during a November game.
“I went to get back up, as I’d done many times before — but I couldn’t,” she said.
Her parents, Tony and Denise, are their daughter’s greatest supporters, along with her brother, Tylik, who looks up to his big sister; her father is also a coach. After months of physical therapy and hard work to get back in shape following the previous knee injury, the Miles family was in disbelief that she could be seriously hurt again.
“Why is this happening to me?” Tanasia remembers asking her father.
“As a coach, I’ve always tried to have the answers for her,” says Mr. Miles, who witnessed his daughter’s injury from the bench. “But as her father, I didn’t have an answer to that. It made me feel vulnerable. She was in tears; I was almost in tears. After all her hard work, thinking about colleges—her mother and I, we just wondered, what is this going to do to her future?”
The varsity captain actually stayed to watch the game until the third quarter, when the pain became overwhelming. She was brought to the Emergency Department of MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital, where her knee was placed in a brace. Tanasia was able to get around on crutches as the family waited for the results of an MRI to reveal the extent of her injury.
Meeting with Emmanuel Atiemo, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at the MedStar Orthopaedic Institute, Tanasia received the news no athlete wants to hear: she’d torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a knee injury typically requiring surgery to repair the unstable joint.
Given the telltale “pop” she had felt, this was not unexpected. Still, she recalls,
“When Dr. Atiemo told me I tore my ACL, I just got quiet.”
Then, as with other challenges the 17-year-old has faced, she and her parents got down to work.
Her surgery was on a Friday in December. By that Monday, she was back to working hard in physical therapy — a display of the dedication she once exhibited when she’d first asked to take up basketball in fifth grade.
Her mother, Denise, accompanied her daughter to therapy sessions, recording video of her workouts so they could be carefully replicated at home. The goal was always to make sure Tanasia could get back to safely doing what she loved.
“As soon as she could walk, we were back to playing basketball,” says Mr. Miles. “Whatever Dr. Atiemo told us Tanasia was ready to do, we were doing it. Whatever we could, we did.” Tanasia focused on strength and conditioning as well as agility training, getting back on a treadmill at home between physical therapy sessions. She continued to serve as captain of the varsity team her junior year, receiving the “most inspirational” award at the end-of-year sports banquet.
Following her longtime mentor, Coach Toyja Somerville, Tanasia began her senior year at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardtown. Now a junior at Wilmington University, Wilmington, Del., she’s back on the court “and is 100 percent ready to go.” She looks forward to an active basketball season.
Now 20, Tanasia is majoring in sports management and mass communications and hasn’t ruled out playing professionally when she finishes school. “We want to see her walk across that stage with a diploma first,” says Mr. Miles. “We’ll see what happens after that.”
The Miles family is grateful for the community support they received after their daughter’s injury, as well as Dr. Atiemo’s calming presence as he helped guide the student athlete back to health.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 888-906-7361.
“Depending on the patient's level of activity and previous conditioning, rehab for ACL reconstruction is typically between 6-9 months. This tends to be much longer in those considered to be high level athletes, and Tanasia Miles is what I consider to be a high level athlete. Thus it would take her a significant amount of time to regain her level of strength, conditioning, and confidence in herself and her knee.”
—EMMANUEL ATIEMO, MD