The softball flew into left field, and Hayley Banach turned to run for it.


She felt her knee give way.

She tried to keep running after the ball, but could not. She lay on the grass in pain as the umpire, her coach and her dad ran out to check on her.

“I just wanted to play,” she said. “I was frustrated that I couldn’t play.”

Hayley, a 14-year-old freshman at Hudsonville High School, had torn her anterior cruciate ligament.

In an instant, her plans for summer and fall changed.

No more travel softball games for the season.

No chance to play volleyball with the high school team.

But Hayley found a silver lining—seeing the support from her family and friends as she recovered from her injury. And with help from her medical team, she looks forward to the day she can again swing a bat and serve a volleyball.

“In the beginning it was hard to think I have to get surgery and stuff,” she said. “But a lot of people helped me. My mom was there for me after surgery. And my friends would come over and visit me.”

Surgery ‘prehab’

Hayley’s injury occurred July 18 as she played in a softball tournament with her travel team, the Lakeshore Storm.

The next day, her mother contacted the Spectrum Health orthopedic sports medicine team and went with Hayley to see Jason Lazor, DO, a non-surgical specialist.

“As a non-operating physician, it’s our job to screen these acute injuries,” Dr. Lazor said.

With an exam, X-rays and an MRI, he diagnosed the tear to her ACL.

“The ACL is the main stabilizer ligament in the knee,” he said. “It’s more appropriate to call it the athletic ligament in the knee. It is used heavily with a lot of athletic movements.”

An ACL tear, which typically occurs as a non-contact, pivoting injury, is fairly common, he said. About 1 in 3,500 Americans each year experience an ACL rupture.

Like Hayley, athletes typically feel a “pop” when it happens. Sometimes, they hear it, too.

It can sound like a piece of celery as it is snapped in two, Dr. Lazor said.

If an athlete wants to return to the same level of activity, he advised a surgical reconstruction of the ligament.

A surgical date was set—working around the Banach family’s vacation plans.

In the meantime, Hayley underwent prehab in preparation for surgery.

Mariah Supianoski, an athletic trainer with the sports medicine team who works with athletes at Hudsonville High School, taught her exercises to increase her leg’s muscle strength, improve her knee’s range of motion and decrease swelling.

She used electrical stimulation to activate the quadriceps, the muscles in the front and sides of the thigh.

“When you have a knee injury, the quadriceps shut down,” Supianoski said.

“Getting that quad muscle to wake up and start working again is really important before going into surgery. The more muscle memory you have, the better you are going to be able to bring it back after surgery.”

On Aug. 6, Hayley underwent outpatient surgery at the Spectrum Health South Pavilion surgery center.

James Lebolt, DO, an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon, performed arthroscopic surgery to rebuild her ACL using the patellar tendon.

Soon after surgery, Hayley began to work with physical therapist Jolene Bennett, PT, at the Spectrum Health Medical Group outpatient rehabilitation program at the Visser YMCA.

Part of the team

The first days of recovery and physical therapy were difficult, Hayley said.

“I just knew I had to do it if I wanted to play sports again,” she said.

She made progress every day. And by the time school started Aug. 23, she could walk through the school without crutches.

The volleyball season began with the school year. Although Hayley cannot play, she still has a spot on the high school team: She serves as team manager.

“She can go to most practices and games and every tournament,” said her mom, Christine Banach.

After ACL surgery, recovery usually takes about nine months—although that can vary by patient, Dr. Lazor said.

Hayley hopes she will recover fully by softball season.

“I can see myself playing volleyball and softball again and being able to do fun things with my friends, like tubing,” she said.

Although it was difficult to see her daughter cope with an injury, Christine admires the way Hayley faced the disappointments and pain.

“To a 14-year-old, this is life-changing,” she said. “But she went through it, and every day, things are getting a little brighter for her.”