A breakthrough junior season left Joshua Hale eagerly anticipating what his senior campaign would look like with the Massaponax football team.
Hale rushed for 1,154 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Panthers in 2018. As a fullback he averaged 8.1 yards per carry and was also a stalwart at outside linebacker.
But during a 7-on-7 competition July 2, Hale’s outlook for 2019 suddenly turned bleak.
“I backpedaled, planted my foot, twisted my knee and I heard and felt something pop,” Hale recalled. “I felt my leg tighten up.”
Hale was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee and immediately began to dread the prospect of missing his final season of high school football.
That was until his mother began researching alternatives to ACL surgery. A month and a half after he suffered the injury, Hale underwent a semi-experimental procedure called Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP.
Typical rehab of a torn ACL takes approximately nine months. But Hale returned to action Oct. 5 against Brooke Point and played eight snaps.
He doubled that last week against Riverbend and is expected to play an increased role Friday night when the Panthers (6–1, 3–0 Commonwealth District) host Mountain View (6–1, 2–1) in a Commonwealth showdown.
“It feels great to be back, especially knowing ACLs are usually a season-ending injury,” Hale said. “So me being able to come back to help my team is definitely a blessing.”
Hale noted the procedure that’s allowed him to return so soon involved blood being taken from his arm and shot into his knee. It was performed at Truong Rehabilitation Center in Spotsylvania County. The cost was approximately $2,000 and wasn’t covered by insurance.
Research conducted by U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health found that PRP is a useful treatment post-surgery for torn ACLs but there is no evidence of it as a stand-alone fix. According to prptreatment.org, PRP therapy has not been proven to be a suitable form of treatment to repair ACL tears.
Former Washington Redskins safety Laron Landry underwent PRP treatment to help heal an Achilles injury several years ago.
A high school’s athletic trainer has the final say if a player sees the field. Massaponax veteran trainer Christy Carlson said she had little to do with Hale’s clearance as it was handled by his physical therapists. She said it’s the first time she’s experienced an athlete returning this quickly from a torn ACL. Carlson said she monitors Hale and works with him daily to ensure his safety and that he has what he needs to function at practice and in games, but added she wasn’t involved at all in his rehab.
Massaponax head coach Eric Ludden said he’s been amazed by Hale’s progress. He said as long as Hale continues to respond positively to contact, the Panthers will add to his responsibilities heading into the final three games of the regular season and into the Region 6B playoffs.
“I think a lot of times coming off an injury a lot of the recovery is mental and emotional, just trying to get your mind back into it,” Ludden said. “I don’t think he’s missed anything there. He’s come right in and he’s a big leader on this team.”
Hale never departed the Panthers. Massaponax junior Elijah Christopher said it was apparent Hale’s morale was a bit down but he attended every practice and game and was vocal on the sideline in support of his teammates.
Hale has closely watched the growth of Christopher, who also plays linebacker and fullback. In Hale’s absence Christopher ranks fifth in the Fredericksburg area with 681 rushing yards. He’s averaged 6.7 yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns.
Christopher and Hale will alternate offensive series once the latter is fully up to speed. They’ll play side by side in the linebacker corps with Christopher shifted to the middle this season.
“He was a great player for our offense last year,” Christopher said. “It was sad that he had to go down. But we have good depth. Guys stepped up. We have a lot of athletes on this team that do that.”
The Panthers’ athletes will be tested Friday by a Mountain View team coming off its first loss of the season—24–13 last Friday to Colonial Forge.
Ludden said the Wildcats are always a tough, well-coached foe and he’s expecting no different from head coach Lou Sorrentino’s squad tonight.
“They’re so well-prepared, so we know that’s going to present a challenge,” Ludden said. “They’re physically a good team, too. They’re definitely a formidable opponent.”