Ankles and Elbows

When you watch football, you’re unfortunately accustomed to seeing players wheeled off the field on a stretcher. When you watch hockey, you cringe regardless of how many times a player is slammed against the side of the rink. When you watch wrestling, well, you’re just asking for more frown lines.

But when you watch a graceful ballerina perform, you seldom worry about snapping sounds or seeing blood. And when you watch a gymnast, you don’t dread anything sticking out, except an amazing aerial dismount.

That’s why Lisa Grosdidier of Overland Park was surprised when she got a call from the gymnastics studio in December.

Dr. Donna Pacicca with her patient Macy Grosdidier.

“My older daughter called and said ‘Macy’s bone is sticking out’,” says Lisa, whose youngest daughter, Macy, began taking gymnastics when she was 4 years old. “I kind of panicked, but I knew that the coach was there.”

Macy says panic was also her first reaction after getting her foot caught in a mat and falling on her left arm during a conditioning exercise.

“I freaked out,” says Macy, who is now 9 years old and competes on a gymnastics team. “I didn’t know what was happening, and I thought it was broken.”

Lisa and Macy were referred to the Center for Sports Medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospital by other parents and coaches. With Lisa literally holding Macy’s arm together and Macy holding back tears, the twosome went straight to Children’s Mercy Hospital for a diagnosis.

Macy had a dislocated elbow and underwent a reduction to put the bones back in place. She immediately got a cast that was broken for swelling and made an appointment to meet with Donna Pacicca, MD, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at the Center for Sports Medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospital, later that week.

“We heard that Dr. Pacicca enjoyed elbows and gymnastics before we even met her,” says Lisa. “When we met her, you could immediately tell that she loves her job of fixing kids and making them better.”

Macy agrees and says that Dr. Pacicca put her at ease when discussing the dislocation by talking to her in ways that she could understand.

“She asked me questions like ‘what is my favorite subject in school?’ and talked to me about gymnastics,” says Macy, who was especially happy to hear that Dr. Pacicca was a former gymnast.

“We try not to just focus on the injured part of the body,” says Pacicca. “We take a detailed history of the patient and address the whole issue.”

Macy was thrilled that Pacicca didn’t warn her to stay away from her passion. She simply offered great advice that Macy is already sharing with her teammates.

“The reason why this happened is that the ligament snapped instead of my muscles bracing the fall,” says Macy, who hopes to be back at 100 percent this summer. “Building up my strength is the most important thing that I can do.”

Lisa is more than pleased with Pacicca, the Center for Sports Medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospital, Macy’s newly acquired knowledge and her daughter’s well-educated return to the sport.

“Gymnastics started out just as a good activity and a way to teach coordination,” says Lisa, who admittedly didn’t know too much about the sport before her girls showed interest. “It’s a risky sport and riskier than others, but I know she’s in good hands.”

Pacicca enjoys her work with children who dance and practice gymnastics. However, she believes that adolescent dancers and gymnasts are getting hurt as much or more as their counterparts who compete in high-impact sports.

“These kids seem to hide their injuries more than basketball and football players,” says Pacicca. “They’re losing roles and spots on teams.”

Pacicca suggests that some dance teachers and coaches are to blame for recognizing early talent and pushing children too hard.

“If you have young kids, you should keep it fun and safe,” recommends Pacicca. “Keep it to a couple of hours a week instead of 15 to 20.”

Pacicca sees patients suffering from gymnastics injuries such as fractures and dislocations between the ages of 10 and 14. She treats mostly high-school age students who have been injured by dance. She says that many of the injuries could have been prevented with proper parental oversight and early education.

“The key thing is for parents to know what their kids are doing,” advises Pacicca.

For more information about the Center for Sports Medicine at Children’s Mercy Hospital, call (816) 701-HURT (4878) or visit