Elbow grease: Miss Rodeo Ogden overcomes serious injury, rare surgery

Jul 24 2012 - 7:10am

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Bailey Jo Woolsey competes in the first round of the horsemanship competition at the Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden on Thursday. (NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)
Bailey Jo Woolsey competes in the first round of the horsemanship competition at the Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden on Thursday. (NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)
Bailey Jo Woolsey competes in the first round of the horsemanship competition at the Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden on Thursday. (NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)
Bailey Jo Woolsey competes in the first round of the horsemanship competition at the Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden on Thursday. (NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)
Bailey Jo Woolsey competes in the first round of the horsemanship competition at the Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden on Thursday. (NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)
Bailey Jo Woolsey competes in the first round of the horsemanship competition at the Golden Spike Arena at the Weber County Fairgrounds in Ogden on Thursday. (NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)

OGDEN -- Bailey Jo Woolsey wouldn't change the outcome of her cheerleading accident even though she eventually needed a cadaver knee bone implanted in her elbow because of it.

Woolsey, 18, is Miss Rodeo Ogden. The summer before her freshman year at Morgan High School, she was practicing a flying stunt with her fellow cheerleaders when one of the fliers fell. "I was the only one who caught her," Woolsey said. "I felt a pain in my (left) elbow and could tell something was wrong, but I didn't think much about it."

A week later, when the pain didn't subside, Woolsey went to the doctor. An X-ray didn't show any serious injury, and Woolsey was told she probably pulled some muscles.

"The doctor told me to take a couple of weeks off, so I did," she said. "For the next two years, I cheered with the pain and was also doing rodeo stuff, but I just figured it was tendinitis."

Then, last December, in a weightlifting class, Woolsey couldn't lift the 45-pound bar and her left arm swelled up.

"I had no grip strength at all, and I also noticed that my fingers and arm would go numb while doing my hair in the morning," she said.

"Things were getting harder and harder, and I'm left-handed, which just made it worse. My elbow would pop, and every time it did, it felt like the world was coming down, it hurt so bad."

Another appointment with the doctor revealed Woolsey had actually suffered a serious injury in the accident.

Dr. Kevin Stucki, an orthopedic and hand surgeon at Ogden Regional Medical Center, diagnosed Woolsey with osteochondritis dissecans, a condition in which a portion of the bone in a joint loses blood supply and begins to die.

As the bone dies, it can fragment, he said, and portions of cartilage and bone become loose in the joint.

"In her case, it was the elbow. This causes pain, loss of motion and early arthritis," he said.

Stucki decided Woolsey would need surgery, but the type of surgery she needed was rare and involved using a cadaver bone from the knee.

"Previously, the cartilage and bone was taken from a nonweight-bearing portion of the patient's knee and transplanted to the elbow," he said.

"With this new product, we use cadaver bone and cartilage to decrease morbidity. While more common in the knee, this procedure is quite rare in the elbow.

"The company tells me I am the first to use it in the elbow."

The product is called Chondrofix and is supplied by the company Zimmer. It is a cadaver bone sterilized with methylene blue. It comes from an adult knee and has a shelf life of two years.

"This is a very rare application of this new product, so the success rate is unknown. However, we have done the same procedure with the patient's own bone for years with good results, most commonly in the knee but also other joints including the elbow," Stucki said.

"The graft is sterile, so no anti-rejection medications are required."

The surgery was performed at the end of January, after which Woolsey underwent three months of intense physical therapy.

"I was released three days before my first rodeo," Woolsey said. "I was very worried because, as Miss Rodeo Ogden, you have to do a lot of jump (mounts). I still didn't have any strength in my elbow and had to really rely on my right arm and my horse."

As she prepared to compete in Miss Rodeo Utah, Woolsey said her elbow was feeling better every day.

"I never thought I would be able to do a lot of the things I used to do again, and I didn't think I would be able to straighten out my arm, but things are coming back," she said.

"They say the elbow is the unforgivable joint. Once you injure it, it's hard to get it back, but it has been worth the while for me. I can now straighten my arm all the way and bend it all the way back."

Woolsey said if she had to do it over again, she would still want to be a cheerleader.

"I loved cheer, and it's definitely something I would do all over again," she said.

"The girl who fell feels really bad about everything I've gone through, but if she had fallen, she would have been hurt a lot worse than I was. I'm glad I could break her fall, and if I had to do it again, I would."

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