It was like a scene from a movie when high school basketball player Greg Smalley returned to the court after surgery to repair his broken fifth metatarsal. Fans were on their feet, excitedly cheering when they realized the 6 foot 8 center was entering the game. In moments, Greg quickly stole the ball, sprinted up the court and dunked the basket against the opposing team’s defenders – valiantly marking his return.
“Greg hadn’t told anyone he was going to be playing that night – he kept it a secret,” said mom Janine Smalley. “Everyone was so happy to see him back, so they all started cheering when he stepped onto the court. When he dunked it, the crowd went wild. The place erupted.”
Greg wasn’t sure that he would ever be able to return to the sport he loved. The previous year, he had broken the fifth metatarsal, commonly known as a Jones Fracture, and missed his entire junior year of basketball with his nine-month recovery. When he broke the bone again early into his senior year, Greg knew he wanted to seek out alternative treatment options so that he could finish his high school basketball career.
Jones fractures are common among basketball players because of the stress the sport places on the lower extremities through side-to-side cutting, stopping and sudden acceleration. Because of poor blood supply to the area and soft tissue that is attached, Jones fractures are notorious for not healing well. They are often career ending.
With the second fracture to the same foot, Greg turned to St. Vincent Charity foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Michael Canales for treatment options that would allow him to rejoin his Parma High School teammates before the end of the season.
“I knew I wanted to get back to the game as fast as I could,” Greg said. “When I saw Dr. Canales for the first time, I knew immediately he understood how badly I wanted to play. He assured me he would do all he could to get me back as fast as he could.”
Knowing it was likely the first fracture did not heal well through previous nonsurgical treatment, Dr. Canales performed a minimally invasive operation to place a screw down the metatarsal bone. He also used intraoperative x-ray to strategically inject platelet-rich plasma into the fracture site.
“When you are an athlete, you are counting the minutes you are on the sidelines,” Dr. Canales said. “I felt that this minimally invasive surgery, combined with the platelet injection, would give him the best chance to get back on the court safely and efficiently.”
Miraculously, this time, Greg was able to heal and rehab after surgery in less than 3 months. He was able to play the last three games of the season, including that cinematic moment in his first game back when he ignited the crowd with his heroic leap and slam dunk for 2. Greg’s team went on to compete in the state high school playoffs that year.
“This surgery and such a quick recovery time were kind of unchartered territory. Everything had to go exactly as planned to make Greg’s dream of getting back in the game a reality,” Canales said. “I am just glad he got to have his fairy tale ending.”