Perfect balance between healing and rehab gets Paige Bennett back to play quickly
Off the court, Paige Bennett’s friends describe her as goofy and easygoing, the one who always goes with the flow. But on the court, the 15-year-old is laser-focused and competitive, never hesitating to act decisively to win.
“Paige is very sweet and nice, but deep down she’s highly competitive. Get her on the court and she’s incredibly driven,” says Christine Boyd, MD, the medical director of the Sports Medicine Program at Stanford Children’s Health.
That drive means Paige gives her all to her volleyball teams at Foothills High School and NorCal Volleyball Club in Pleasanton, California. And it’s what landed her, once again, in Dr. Boyd’s office.
“I’m a frequent flyer of Dr. Boyd’s. She really knows me and my body. She understands my attitude and the way I go through life,” Paige says.
In May 2021, Paige was at a club tournament. She was blocking up front as an outside hitter when an opposing girl’s foot came under the net. Paige came down on the girl’s foot and rolled her ankle, spraining it and fracturing a bone.
“I was so emotional about getting injured, but Dr. Boyd really calmed me down. She and the rest of the team helped me recover super-quickly so I could play in an upcoming tournament, a qualifier for nationals,” Paige adds.
Paige wore a cast for six weeks and completed six weeks of physical therapy to get her strength back. Her physical therapist, Charlie Lee, PT, DPT, gave her exercises that were specific to volleyball and ones she could perform at home.
“Charlie is a volleyball guy, so he did volleyball drills with her to get her mind off of recovery. It’s amazing how the Sports Medicine Program personalizes care for every type of athlete,” says Melissa Bennett, Paige’s mom.
Melissa knows volleyball. She played for the University of Oklahoma, as did her husband, Nathan, but in baseball. Today, Melissa coaches the junior varsity (JV) volleyball team at Paige’s high school, teasing that Paige flew right by JV and went straight to varsity.
“I enjoy playing on highly competitive teams, where everyone is working toward the same goal and pushing each other to their highest level,” Paige says.
In physical therapy, Paige did exercises to maintain strength even before the cast came off. Once it did, she progressed from simple movements to restore ankle motion to functional ankle-, calf-, and leg-strengthening exercises. Lastly, she and Lee worked on getting her confidence back with running, jumping, and changing directions.
“I’ve been seeing Paige since she was a seventh grader for ankle injuries. We feel like family at this point,” Lee says.
Lee believes one of the strengths of the program’s specialty clinic in Pleasanton is that everyone—doctors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers—is all in one place. Being just down the hall from each other makes it really easy to collaborate.
“Everything we do here, we do as a team to help our patients. Just like with sports teams that succeed or win, we have a really strong team attitude,” adds Dr. Boyd.
Melissa and Paige couldn’t agree more. They really appreciate the one-stop shop for care.
“If you need an x-ray, it’s just a few hops down the hall, and you get results immediately. And the rehab gym is right there,” Melissa says. “Plus, the clinic gets us in within a day, and when we arrive, everyone is already familiar with what Paige and her brother Jason need—because he’s a frequent flyer, too.”
Another strength of the Stanford Children’s Health program is focusing on youth athletes. And young athletes only.
“Because we are a pediatric specialty clinic, all we see is kids, and close to 90% of our patients at Pleasanton are middle school and high school athletes. Being among peers really helps our patients feel comfortable,” says Lee.
Dr. Boyd is not surprised that Paige has had repeated ankle injuries. It’s a fairly common injury with volleyball and basketball players. Also, during middle school and early high school, kids’ skeletons are growing rapidly, and sometimes balance and coordination doesn’t keep up.
Playing at a competitive level is one more reason why the mother and daughter connect with Dr. Boyd: She ran track at Stanford University.
“I wear two hats—as doctor and as a competitive athlete. As an athlete, I understand the mentality of the youth athletes that I treat. I understand that missing practices and games is not easy, so I take my job of getting them better quickly very seriously,” says Dr. Boyd. “But the ultimate goal is helping them grow into healthy adults, so I balance risk and reward and find a safe and effective way to move forward.”
Paige plays both basketball and volleyball, but she chose volleyball when the pandemic caused seasons to overlap. She plans to choose volleyball for college as well.
“Watching her play the sport I grew up loving gives me such pride and joy,” Melissa says. “She has a better mindset than I had as a player. She’s emotionally stable and really good at brushing off mistakes, switching her mindset quickly, and moving on to the next play.”
Thanks to a swift recovery, Paige was able to play in the club tournament that she had her eye on, and with her help the team made nationals. She’s extremely grateful that it worked out.
“I keep joking that when Paige goes to college, we will have to fly her home to see Dr. Boyd and the care team at Stanford Children’s,” Melissa says. “We wouldn’t go anywhere else.”