Local actor Derek Cecil blew out his ACL skiing this past winter, just on the eve of the coronavirus business shutdown. Oddly, the timing seemed somewhat fortuitous, since the virus-imposed production moratorium could allow Cecil the time to address his injury and find work once TV and movie production resumed. At first, he sought physical therapy in a vain attempt to rehab his knee. “I wanted to see if I could do the job of being an actor without it being noticeable,” he says. This proved impossible, but the first doctor Cecil sought out could schedule nothing for several weeks and he was anxious to get his condition addressed sooner rather than later. Cecil’s physical therapist suggested he seek out Dr. Alexander Weber at Keck Medicine of USC. Weber, a former athlete good enough to play on the national volleyball team, had geared his career toward the treatment of high-level athletes and the particular injuries they endure. Following his residency in Chicago, he came to USC specifically for the abundant opportunity to practice sports medicine, which the area and the university provided.
Dr. Weber describes Cecil’s injury as fairly routine, in terms of the common tear resulting from the particular stresses caused by the knee turning while the foot remains in the ski’s binding. “The rest of Derek’s knee was excellent, however,” says Dr. Weber. “But I explained that in order to go back to doing running, twisting activity, playing sports or get back on the slopes, you need a functioning ACL. This meant not just a repair but an ACL reconstruction.” Without surgery, the knee would always feel unstable and Cecil would risk damaging the surrounding structures of the knee, explains Dr. Weber.
Unfortunately, within days of the consultation, elective surgery was halted, requiring a one-month delay before Dr. Weber could operate on Cecil’s knee. “I give the credit to USC and the State for doing things right to conserve PPE and making sure we weren’t overwhelmed,” he says. “USC was really methodical and systematic about how we introduced elective surgery. Patients like Derek, who needed to get back to doing what they could do, needed a new ACL. It’s elective, but the longer it’s delayed, the longer before he can get back. (We went back) as soon as it was safe and protocols were put in place, allowing us to socially distance at the hospital, limiting visitors to patients and practitioners. Everyone is getting tested routinely at the hospital (as frequently as they would like, at least every two weeks) and then every patient is tested within 72 hours of surgery.” So far this attention to detail has paid off. “Since mid-April,” says Weber, “we’ve had no issues, no positive tests or any required contact tracing. We have not run into any problems regarding elective surgeries. No issues with ICU availability or PPE supplies.”
For Cecil, things are looking good. Dr. Weber replaced the torn ACL with a tendon from a cadaver, which is the standard of care when the patient is over 35. (For younger patients, the tendon is typically harvested from the patient.) Cecil says he “went in at 9:30 and was out by 2. I was home for dinner. The next day I was doing physical therapy and bending.” Cecil was eight weeks post-surgery at the time of this writing. “Apparently a lot of people reinjure themselves around 10 weeks because they are feeling overconfident,” he says. Cecil knows that slow and steady wins the race, though he is feeling buoyant himself. “I can tell you this, everything is going really, really well,” he says.