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July 16, 2008
Fourteen-year-old Billy Stokes was playing hockey for North St. Paul when what should have been a normal "check" turned into a shoulder-to-shoulder collision with another hockey player. He felt a crack and then instant pain, but he gathered himself and passed the puck to his teammates. When he got off the ice, Billy sat on the bench for the rest of the game, afraid to move and knowing something was definitely wrong.
When the game finally ended, it was evident Billy needed to see a doctor. At the emergency room, the staff carefully removed his hockey jersey. A bone on his right side was protruding and X-rays confirmed that Billy had broken his clavicle. The emergency room doctor recommended that Billy be seen by an orthopaedic specialist.
Billy's mother, Pam Stokes, recalled, "We asked to be referred to an orthopaedist who would treat him as an active and athletic kid. We needed someone who would listen to us and help us make the right decisions for our young son.
"We were able to get in immediately to St. Croix Orthopaedics," explained Pam. "It was very important to us to have Billy seen as soon as possible."
Dr. Nick Meyer thoroughly explained Billy's injury to Billy and his parents. Billy had two breaks in his bone, which is not typical for clavicle fractures. Dr. Meyer presented Billy and his parents with two possible treatments plans -- one would involve surgery and the other would allow the bone to heal itself.
"Dr. Meyer explained how the bone would heal with surgery versus non-surgery and gave us the pros and cons of both treatment plans," Pam recalled. "He gave us all the information we needed to make an informed decision. Most importantly, Dr. Meyer talked with Billy and reassured him that he would be able to play hockey again. I felt this was so important because Billy is old enough to understand his injury."
Billy and his parents decided on the non-surgical treatment option. They felt confident the break would heal and Billy would have nothing more to show for it than a little bump. Billy sat out the rest of his hockey season and waited to see how his bone healed. After eight weeks, he was able to resume his normal activity. At ten weeks, he skated for the first time; but his first collision hurt, so they decided to give it a little more time to heal. The final result was just what they were hoping for; Billy's clavicle had healed, just as Dr. Meyer had described.
Although Billy missed much of his hockey season, Pam felt this was a great learning experience for him. "Billy is now so much stronger. He had a setback, but he has had to work hard to get back to where he was before the injury," she said. Heeding Dr. Meyer's advice, Billy has enrolled in a weightlifting program to strengthen his body so he can be better prepared for his next hockey season. Until then, he definitely has a story to share with his fellow hockey players.