February 21, 2018

Olympic athlete turns to St. Vincent surgeon for expertise

When Olympic medalist and former Ohio State gymnast Morgan Hamm suffered a torn Achilles Tendon, he knew immediately he would turn to fellow Buckeye Dr. Michael Canales for help.

As a podiatric surgeon at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center's Spine and Orthopedic Institute, Dr. Canales, a member of the Ohio State’s 1996 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championship Team, is widely regarded for his expertise in medical and surgical care for foot and ankle injuries, particularly among the nation’s elite athletes.

A three-time Olympian and 2004 silver medalist, Hamm continues to train to remain in competitive form, even appearing in Japan’s Ninja Warrior competition. Ninja Warrior training tests the strength and balance of top athletes in a gauntlet of obstacle, wall and rope courses.

It was during this training that Morgan, as he neared the top tier of the highest wall, felt something snap in his calf and his heel quickly dropped. He knew, without even seeing a physician, what he felt was most likely a tear in his Achilles Tendon. Morgan also knew from watching teammates throughout his gymnastics career with similar injuries that recovery from a torn Achilles often takes up to 12 months.

He immediately contacted Dr. Canales for treatment. Morgan had gotten to know Dr. Canales, who serves as the announcer for Ohio State Men’s Gymnastics and as an alumni adviser to the team, and had confidence in his unique expertise in foot and ankle injuries to get him back into the gym more quickly.

“For me, I wanted to get back to 100 percent recovery, or as close to that as possible. As a lifetime athlete, I still want to be able to use the trampoline, play tennis, remain active and stay competitive,” Morgan said.

Dr. Canales surgically repaired the torn tendon, common in athletes after years of strain from training, in mid-October with the goal of returning Morgan to full recovery in 6 months.

“As you repair this kind of injury, you have to be careful during surgery how you handle the tissue surrounding the site, leaving it just like you found it,” Dr. Canales said. “The little things in surgery, like knowing I have taken care in not damaging any tissue or muscle surrounding an injury, become the big things. This gives me the confidence in the surgical reconstruction to push a patient harder during rehabilitation so they recover more quickly.”

Following surgery, Dr. Canales helped guide Morgan’s rehabilitation, providing protocol to his athletic therapists and analyzing and assessing videos sent by Morgan, who currently lives and works as a pharmacist in Milwaukee. Dr. Canales routinely utilizes video and electronic technology to monitor and guide rehabilitation of elite athletes who seek his expertise from across the country.

Chronicling his recovery on Instagram, Morgan demonstrated his ability to run on a treadmill and perform agility exercises less than four months after surgery and months earlier than most surgical patients.

Morgan credits his surprisingly quick rehabilitation to not only Dr. Canales’ surgical expertise, but to the physician’s compassionate and thoughtful approach.

“It is not only because Dr. Canales is a great surgeon, but it is how he treats you as a person that sets him apart,” Morgan said. “With the kind way he talks to patients and his commitment to go the extra mile, he makes you feel like you are his only surgery that day and the most important case he is working on.”

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