Chamblee Charter High School senior starting quarterback Landon Loiaza was only one game into the season when he suffered a devastating injury.
“The first thing that hit the ground was my left knee,” Loiaza said. “I heard a pop.”
Even though Loiaza did not feel pain, team trainers suspected something more serious. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that would leave the 17-year-old unable to play the game he loved.
“I was really sad about that,” said Loiaza, who had played football since age 7. “I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to get back into the game.”
The ACL connects the knee to the shinbone and thighbone. It also helps keep the knee stable. Loiaza’s aunt, Monica Chipman, said the injury changed everything for her nephew.
“He was being looked at by college scouts,” she said. “He was really at peak performance. It was a bit of a hit for him.”
Loiaza first went to an orthopaedic doctor at an adult facility. While it was clear he had injured his ACL, his medical team could not pinpoint the severity of the injury, which worried Chipman.
“They wanted to put him back on the field in a brace,” she said. “This is where we put our foot down.”
Seeking answers, Chipman brought her nephew to the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Sports Medicine Program. There, Surgical Director Michael T. Busch, M.D., explained Loiaza’s options—the ACL could be repaired with surgery, or he could play with a brace and risk further knee injury. To Loiaza, the choice was obvious.
“I was more concerned about my future,” he said. “Football doesn’t go away. I made my decision right there to have the surgery. I knew I came to the right place and that Dr. Busch was the right guy.”
A month later, Loiaza and Chipman made the early morning trip to Children’s for surgery. Loiaza said the medical team immediately put him at ease.
“The experience I had at Children’s was amazing,” he said. “The atmosphere was great, and everyone treated me well.”
Since the October 2011 surgery, Loiaza has been undergoing sports physical therapy at Children’s. So far, it is paying off.
“They push you hard, but I’m a hard worker,” Loiaza said. “It’s getting my knee better and stronger. The people there are incredible.”
While he will be out for the season, he hopes to be able to play at the community college level. Loiaza, now 18, is also focusing more on his schoolwork and is looking into a possible military career.
“Before the injury, I was focused on football too much,” he said. “This helped me know that I need to worry about other things.”