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Matt Norfleet

Matt Norfleet
Procedure: Reconstructive knee surgery

In the summer of 2009, Matt Norfleet was guiding a group of whitewater rafters down a particularly treacherous stretch of the Colorado River's Gore Canyon called Tunnel Falls. As the raft went over the falls, the bottom of the boat dropped out and Mike's  leg got caught under the raft's cross-tube. He was thrown forward but his leg didn't come with him. Mike heard a snap, so he knew things were bad. He was in shock and thought he broke his leg. Another guide jumped into the boat and got the raft to shore. As a trained EMT, Mike was able to assess his injury. He couldn't feel any abnormalities in his leg meaning it was most likely soft-tissue damage and no broken bones. After managing to guide the raft through the rest of the run, Matt went directly to the ER. His knee was swollen badly and he couldn't walk.

At the hospital, Matt was told how serious of an injury he had sustained. He had suffered serious trauma to his right knee with multiple torn ligaments… including his ACL, his LCL, and his popliteal or posterior ligament. Matt had also suffered damage to his bicep. He had stretched the nerves in his knee as far as they could go and would need to undergo massive reconstructive knee surgery.

Matt, who spends his summers as a raft-guide and his winters as a ski patroller at Arapahoe Basin, says he knew he wanted to see Dr. Richard Cunningham. "He had done the knees of a few ski patrollers I know and they said he was great." At the initial consultation, Matt says Dr. Cunningham was very honest about Matt's situation. "He told me I wouldn't be able to ski that next season; I was crushed." That's when Matt realized how close he came to never again being able to do the things he loves.

In the past, injuring more than one knee ligament would put an end to future sports activities. Today, many athletes are able to return to high level sports following multiple ligament injuries.

Injuring multiple ligaments can have serious complications. They can disrupt blood supply to the leg. They can also affect the nerves that supply the muscles of the limb. Dr. Cunningham suggested repairing the damage in two separate surgeries. The first surgery was performed right away to repair Matt's torn LCL, popliteal and bicep

Two months later, Dr. Cunningham repaired Matt's badly torn ACL using a break-through technique called a "Double-Bundle." Dr. Cunningham says this new technique is stronger and provides better knee stability than the usual single bundle technique by more closely restoring a normal knee's biomechanics. The technique has created quite a buzz amongst local physical therapists.  "Several therapists have mentioned that patients are getting their range of motion, stability, and strength back faster than other ACL patients in rehab," says Dr. Cunningham.

Throughout his ordeal, Matt says Dr. Cunningham and his staff, including physician assistant Mike Outslay were "awesome." "Dr. Cunningham is an amazing surgeon and Mike was great at telling me what to expect until my next appointment. He gives you a real personal connection."

Committed to getting back to skiing and rafting, Matt didn't miss one single physical therapy session. He was cleared five-six weeks early. He guided rafting that next summer and was back on the slopes the following winter. "I really had no problems considering the severity of my injuries. It hasn't held me back at all. I am ecstatic with my outcome and really grateful. I guess I didn't realize how close I came to not being able to come back at all."