When Malcolm Wiley was a freshman, he set a goal to become the first black wrestler from his high school to win a state championship. He achieved that goal as a junior, and then captured a second state wrestling title during his senior season. But it almost didn’t happen.
In the fall of his junior year, Malcolm’s kneecap dislocated for the fourth time in two years during a wrestling tournament. His dad, Malcolm Wiley Sr., knew it would keep happening if they didn’t seek treatment. With his son’s athletic career on the line, they went to see Michael T. Busch, MD, Surgical Director of Sports Medicine at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Dr. Busch, founder of the Sports Medicine Program at Children's, has dedicated his career to helping teen athletes recover from injuries and get back to the sports they love.
“Malcolm had a dislocating kneecap that had become a severe hindrance to him competing in wrestling,” Dr. Busch said. “Besides degrading his sports performance, he would likely develop premature arthritis if the kneecap continued to dislocate. My main goal with athletes like Malcolm is to make sure they stay pain-free for years to come so they can continue playing sports their whole lives."
A tailored treatment plan
Dr. Busch told Malcolm and his parents that his knee wouldn’t get better on its own—he would have to have surgery, which could make him miss his entire junior season. Malcolm Sr. remembers hearing the news:
“I’m crying, my son is crying,” Malcolm Sr. said. “We were disappointed because that entire summer my son had been participating in national competitions and getting really good. We were going to have to throw all his work away.”
Fortunately, Dr. Busch had a plan that would keep Malcolm on the mat without making his injury worse. Dr. Busch proposed a minor surgery that would remove loose fragments in Malcolm’s knee and allow him to finish out the season, with the help of physical therapy. Once the season was over, Dr. Busch would make the final repair in a more extensive operation.
"Because we are dedicated to kid and teen athletes, we understand their growing bodies and can create treatment plans that are best for them," Dr. Busch said. Our collaborative approach to sports medicine gives athletes access to doctors, surgeons, sports physical therapists and certified athletic trainers who are leaders in pediatric sports medicine and are on the forefront of research in order to give our patients better outcomes."
That first surgery, along with the rehabilitation work Malcolm put in, gave him the strength and stability he needed to make it to the state championship—and win.
The second surgery was scheduled for a week after Malcolm earned his first state title. His entire off-season was given over to recovery and rehabilitation, and he was cleared to return to wrestling right before his senior season began. That season ended with another trip to the top of the podium for Malcolm. Since then, he has received an offer of appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he will continue his athletic career with the Midshipmen wrestling program.
Our orthopedic specialists focus not only on the orthopedic issues teen athletes face, but also on their athletic, academic and family needs, incorporating these considerations into individualized treatment plans.
“There are other people who do orthopedics for kids who may not understand the focus on athletes, particularly high performing athletes,” said Malcolm Sr. “Malcolm was the captain of the wrestling team and poised to do great things. Dr. Busch was making sure he can walk for the rest of his life while understanding this was an important time in his wrestling career and balanced that with what needs to be done.”
Michael T. Busch, MD, is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, Director of the Pediatric Orthopedic Fellowship Program and Surgical Director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children's. Dr. Busch was one of the first orthopedic surgeons in the country with an expertise in pediatric sports medicine and founded the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s. He works with competitive athletes to help get them back to their sport after an injury.