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Brooke Dawahare

Resilient Through Resets

Brooke Dawahare is as tough and durable as they come. In more than a decade of soccer, the Lexington Sporting Club player never suffered an injury that kept her away from the pitch for an extended period of time.

So when her left knee started to hurt during a practice in Oct. 2022, Brooke at first thought little of it. But the strange way it felt quickly forced her to seek a second opinion. She informed her dad, who contacted UK HealthCare Sports Medicine, where she met Dr. Darren Johnson. He determined via MRI that she had torn the meniscus in her left knee and it would require surgery — possibly one that could sideline her for up to six months.

It was not something Brooke, who just two weeks earlier had committed to play Princeton University, expected to be worrying about that fall.

“I really didn’t know anything about meniscuses,” said Brooke, who will graduate from Lafayette High School in May 2024. “I only knew about ACLs because in soccer, everything’s about ACL prevention. I kind of just put my trust in everybody else, because I’d never really done anything like this before.”

Due to the nature of her injury, Dr. Johnson wasn’t able to know until Brooke was on his operating table whether her meniscus would be better treated with a full repair — and subsequently, four to six months of recovery — or debridement, which involves the “scraping out” of torn tissue to relieve symptoms. The latter procedure is more common but slightly raises the risk of osteoarthritis later in life; Brooke lobbied for that outcome leading up to surgery.


She got her wish. Thanks to Richard Watson and the UK Sports Rehabilitation team, she was playing soccer again within a month of her surgery. Brooke was a model patient — she worked with the team at UK HealthCare — Turfland three days a week and the athletic training staff of Lexington Sporting Club, twice a week while making sure she didn’t overdo it with her home exercises.

“She understood that no one training session will make a great athlete, but it could hurt an athlete,” said Watson, who’s been with UK HealthCare since 2012 and has nearly three decades of rehabilitation experience. “She understood that each time we were on a staircase of getting back with a realistic timeframe, we needed to hit each step and master each level along the way.”

A similar feeling

Things were humming along smoothly for Brooke until April 2023, when she felt a familiar pain, this time in her right knee. Her father contacted the LSC care team and within 30 minutes Brooke was in front of Dr. Katie Roberts, who confirmed her suspicion: she’d torn that meniscus and would require another surgery.

“It was just like, ‘Are you kidding? Both meniscuses in five months?” Brooke said. “It was terrible.”

Brooke's care team assured here that there was likely nothing she could have done to prevent either tear: based on her musculoskeletal structure and level of activity, it was all but inevitable. It was just a bit of bad luck that they both tore within a short time frame.

Or, maybe it was good luck. Experiencing the same injury so soon stunk, but if it was bound to happen, Brooke was glad to be with the same UK HealthCare team that carefully guided her through the first go-around. She knew what to expect and was more comfortable prior to her second debridement surgery. And she was as determined as ever to get back to 100 percent.

“As important as any variable — diagnosis, timely surgery, high quality rehab — a patient must be motivated and engaged to return to play at an elite level,” Dr. Johnson said. “A patient must be compliant post-surgery and simply ‘put in the work’ required for a safe return to the pitch. If all those things happen, great things follow.”

Collaboration is key

Watson likened Brooke’s continuum of care to a relay race: the LSC athletic trainers were there to take the baton when Brooke suffered her injuries; Dr. Roberts received the hand-off, diagnosing them; Dr. Johnson was up next, carrying her through surgery; and Watson took Brooke to the finish line. 

That level of coordination isn’t as common as you might think in athletic settings. The partnership between UK HealthCare Sports Medicine and Lexington Sporting Club stands apart.

“It’s just that team approach, that ‘Go Big Blue’ team approach that we really try to incorporate here,” Watson said.

It makes a world of difference for athletes like Brooke, whose professional aspirations are well intact. She was able to play without fear during LSC’s W League season this past summer and has not had any setbacks with her training since her second meniscus tear. 

In a way, she’s even grateful for it. While sidelined, she discovered a passion for putting together puzzles and reignited a childhood love of piano playing. 

“You need a reset, you need another reason to keep going,” Brooke said. “And I don’t say that as like, ‘Oh, if I didn’t tear my meniscus I wouldn’t be working as hard as I am.’ But I think it’s just another reminder that you don’t have every day to play. … I definitely learned a lot through it — not just for my body, but about me as a person.”

Produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy

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