With UI Sports Medicine at his side, Alec recovers from a bad hip injury and wins a state football title

With his team trailing by one point in the fourth quarter of the 2019 state football quarterfinals, Alec Wick, a junior at Regina High School in Iowa City, caught a six-yard pass and then went down hard on the tackle.

The impact dislocated his hip. Alec left the field on a stretcher.

His teammates continued the drive, scored a touchdown, and went on to win the game. As the Regals celebrated their advance to the state semifinals, Alec lay in an ambulance headed for University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Because his school participates in the UI Sports Medicine Outreach Program, Alec had sports medicine specialists tending to his injury from the moment it happened. UI Sports Medicine professionals provided his on-field care, performed the procedure he needed to repair the hip, and guided the physical therapy and training plans that helped him recover.

After putting in months of work, Alec returned to the Regals as a healthy senior. He set a new state record for career receptions, and he helped lead his team to the 2020 state Class 1A football title.

“It was a long recovery,” Alec says. “But it was so wonderful to get back to playing.”

Alec Wick playing football
With a healthy hip, Alec returned to the field and made spectacular catches, including this one in the state semifinal.

Big-league sports medicine care for high school athletes

The UI Sports Medicine Outreach Program provides athletic training and other sports medicine services for schools and other organizations that stage athletic events. The outreach program draws on the same staff, experience, and expertise that UI Sports Medicine uses to take care of Iowa Hawkeyes athletes, delivering a level of care that those schools and event organizers would have difficulty providing on their own.

At Regina, that care begins with athletic trainer Johnnie James, LAT. James, a UI athletic training instructor, clinical supervisor, and sports medicine researcher, serves as Regina's full-time athletic trainer as part of the outreach program.

James works closely with Regina's student athletes, helping to keep them safe and fit. He communicates regularly with coaches and parents as he helps to guide injured athletes back to health. James also advises the athletes' families as they seek specialty care and can help expedite appointments with UI Sports Medicine physicians when necessary.

Expert care on-site for a career-threatening injury

The outreach program also provides on-site coverage by UI Sports Medicine physicians for football games and some other events. When Alec injured his hip during the quarterfinal game in West Branch, 20 miles away from Iowa City, James was accompanied on Regina's sideline by UI orthopedic surgeon Kyle Duchman, MD.

James and Duchman provided immediate medical attention. While working with Alec on the field, Duchman already had UI orthopedic surgeon Robert Westermann, MD, a hip specialist, on the phone to help consult on crucial care decisions.

They maneuvered Alec’s hip back into its socket before moving him.

“We knew that quickly putting his hip back in place on the field would give him the best chance for a positive outcome,” James says. “It also made him more comfortable in the ambulance on the way to the ER.”

A CT scan taken that night at UI Hospitals & Clinics showed that a two-centimeter piece of Alec’s hip bone had broken out of the socket and was lodged in his hip joint.

The following Monday morning, Westermann performed a minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to remove the bone fragment.

“These injuries can be career-ending," Westermann says. "It’s always best to get quick treatment and proper surgical care to ensure the best outcome."

A triumphant return, driven by a winning attitude

After surgery, Alec completed sixth months of physical therapy.

He worked with UI Sports Medicine physical therapist Paul Pursley, MPT, PT, after school two to three times weekly, rehabilitating the hip and his core muscles.

Under James's direction, Alec also performed daily strengthening and rehabilitation exercises at school.

James says Alec kept a positive outlook throughout the entire process, devoting himself fully to returning to the field and setting the stage for his memorable senior season, capped by the state championship, where he set a Class 1A title game record with 226 receiving yards.

“For him, it was never a question of ‘Am I going to play again?’” James says. “It was, ‘OK, this is what I must do. We’ll take care of it and get it done.’ He performs at such an elite level and has such a great attitude about everything he does.”