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World-Class Gymnast Receives The First Hip Arthroscopy Procedure in the High Country Through ARHS

Aug. 7, 2013. Shannan Howerton, world class gymnast and senior at the University of South Carolina, does not have to give up her lifelong dream of being a professional athlete thanks to Dr. Evan Ekman of Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Center a part of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. Howerton is notably recognized for multiple South Carolina State gymnastic titles along with placing 4th in Nationals and 7th in the Junior Olympics.

Appalachian_Regional_Healthcare_r470x260Since starting her competitive gymnastics career at age 6, Howerton, now age 21, is no stranger to overcoming sports related injuries. However, she was devastated when her physicians in South Carolina told her that she had a hip labrum tear – a career finisher. The labrum is the soft elastic tissue on the outside rim of the hip socket. It aids in holding the hip in place.

Unable to compete or even walk without pain, Howerton went through rounds of physical therapy and a series of anti-inflammatory medications to no avail. Frustrated, yet unwilling to give up hope, Howerton decided to reach out to her long time trusted orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Evan Ekman.

Gymnastics has always been an adrenaline rush for me,” said Howerton with a smile. “It requires a lot of hard work, but I am thankful for my supportive family and faith in God, which has allowed me to get where I am today.”

Evan F. Ekman, M.D., a Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon, is a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon, preferred by many professional athletes, and the Medical Director for Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center in Boone. Ekman has performed surgeries on all four of Howerton’s extremities, including recurrent dislocations in both of her shoulders and repairing fractures on both of her ankles.

After reviewing Howerton’s MRI, Dr. Ekman told her about a new procedure that could prove to be a viable option.

“I explained to Shannan that I could perform a hip arthroscopy which is a minimally invasive surgery to treat the tear,” said Dr. Ekman. “Before the advent of this procedure an injury such as this would have been considered the end of her athletic career.”

A hip arthroscopy is an outpatient procedure that takes about an hour to complete. The procedure, which requires advanced training, involves placing a miniature telescope and specialized instruments in the joint through two pinhole incisions. Patients are able to walk on the hip the same day.

“I have known Dr. Ekman for six years,” said Howerton moments before going back for surgery. “I have always felt comfortable with him and I trust him with this new procedure.”

Howerton’s hip arthroscopy procedure, performed at Watauga Medical Center, was successful and the first ever completed in the High Country.

“It is very exciting to perform the first hip arthroscopy procedure in the High Country at ARHS,” said Dr. Ekman with a grin shortly after coming out of surgery. “To have someone like Shannan who had the confidence in the entire staff, as well as Watauga Medical Center, to come to Boone for this intervention speaks volumes in regards to the level of care available now in the mountains.”

A hip arthroscopy can benefit two types of people. The first, like Howerton, is the athlete who may suffer from a labrum tear related to activity. The second, is a person with a degenerative or arthritic condition, such as a patient with a femoroacetabular impingement. This innovative procedure can help these patients tremendously, and at times, decrease the likelihood of a more invasive procedure.

“I would recommend Dr. Ekman to anyone,” said Howerton, who was on the road headed home shortly after lunch the same day she had the procedure. “Anytime I have had an injury, regardless of the severity of the situation, Dr. Ekman has helped me get back to the lifestyle I love. In all reality, he has allowed me to continue to chase my dream.”

While pursuing degrees in exercise science and psychology, Howerton gives back to the sport she loves by coaching aspiring gymnast in Irmo, South Carolina. She is expected to make a full recovery and be able to coach once again soon. Upon graduation from college, Howerton plans to pursue a career as a physical therapist and possibly open a gymnastics gym of her own.

For more information about the Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center, call 828-386-BONEor visit www.apprhs.org/orthopaedics.

For more information about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, visit www.apprhs.org.