Teen Closes in on Recovery after Meniscus Injury

Branden can take advantage of a new orthopedics and sports medicine clinic now open in Burlingame

Nothing says you’re in with coaches more than nicknames. Branden Antiporda plays for two basketball teams—Junípero Serra High School in San Mateo and the San Francisco Soldiers club team—and he also has two nicknames.

“Coaches call me B for short. They also named me the playmaker on the court,” Branden says.

Getting this shy but sturdy 15-year-old to open up isn’t always easy, unless it’s about basketball. Basketball is the focal point of his life, around which everything else spins. When he got injured during the first game of his freshman season in April 2021, Branden was devastated.

“I got a steal and it was a fast break. I planted wrong on the step and my knee gave out,” he says. “I didn’t think it was too bad at first because adrenaline blocked the pain, but then it got pretty painful after the game.”

His school’s athletic trainer checked out his knee, but the swelling made it hard to tell what might be happening. Branden’s local urgent care referred him to Kevin Shea, MD, director of the Sports Medicine Program, part of the Children’s Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.   

“When Dr. Shea told us Branden would be out nine months, he had anguish on his face. You could tell it was hard for him to accept the news,” says Branden’s mom, Deanna. “Everyone at Stanford Medicine Children’s—from our first encounter to today—has been extremely responsive, supportive, and caring.”

Meniscus tears and repair

A 4-D, highly detailed MRI for diagnosing knee and ankle injuries empowered Dr. Shea to quickly confirm that Branden had torn his meniscus on both sides. Menisci are curved bands of cartilage that sit under the knee bone. Imagine two horseshoes coming together on their ends. Their job is to act as shock absorbers and help stabilize the knee. With severe injury, the meniscus is repaired surgically with a meniscus transplant, with tear repair, or by trimming and scraping the damaged meniscus to stimulate blood flow.

“For Branden, we performed minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to clean up the frayed edges and stitch the tears back together. Because the meniscus doesn’t always heal well due to poor blood supply, we also stimulated blood flow to the area by stimulating the bone marrow,” Dr. Shea says.

The quality of tools for meniscus repairs keeps getting better and better. Advanced “all inside” devices allow surgeons to perform their work from just two very small incisions on either side of the knee. Branden’s surgery went well.

It usually takes six to nine months to heal a meniscus tear, news that hit Branden hard. Yet, he approaches physical therapy with the same commitment that he brings to his school and club basketball teams.

“Branden owned getting better. I hope I get to see him play basketball someday,” Dr. Shea says. “Sports medicine is a team sport. I can be a quarterback as a surgeon, but it doesn’t matter if I don’t have dedicated team members—great radiologists, responsive athletic trainers, smart physical therapists, a strong administrative team, and committed patients and family members. Without the whole team, we can’t be as successful at getting youth back to their sports.”

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health’s Young Athletes Academy (YAA) is vital for helping that seamless care happen. Athletic trainers provide sideline sports medicine at area high school games, arrange quick access to specialty care and physical therapy, lead injury prevention programs, and work with young athletes one-on-one to ensure safe return to play.

“If an injury isn’t addressed in a timely manner, it can cause an athlete to require another surgery or lose strength and range of motion, setting them up for another injury in the future,” says Katie Harbacheck, ATC, manager of the YAA program. 

Getting fast, high-quality care is a big reason Deanna and Branden are so grateful to Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. They only wished that care were closer to home. This month, their wish is coming true.

A new sports medicine clinic in Burlingame  

On Oct. 18, Stanford Medicine Children’s Health is opening the Children’s Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center – Burlingame, within minutes of Branden’s home.  

“The new clinic will be a straight shot from home. We won’t have to get stuck in traffic, and Branden won’t have to leave school early to make doctor appointments,” Deanna says.

For years, patients and families from the Burlingame area have requested a location closer to home. The clinic will have a variety of sports medicine doctors, including knee specialists, a shoulder specialist, and a primary care sports medicine doctor, to provide expert consult on performance, injuries, and concussions.

“We see a fair number of patients from Burlingame in Sunnyvale and Palo Alto, so we’ve known for a while that we have a hole in the mid-Peninsula when it comes to clinics,” Dr. Shea says. “The clinic is in a perfect, central location within four to five miles of most area high schools, making care really accessible.”

Through the YAA, athletic trainers will continue to serve on the sidelines at five area high schools, with plans to add more schools over time. Athletic trainers quickly assess injuries and fast-track care for athletes by arranging imaging and doctor visits.

“We’ll be able to get local kids in the same day or the next day, and x-ray them on-site,” Harbacheck adds.

Getting back on the court

Branden can’t wait to get back on the court this December for practices and resume his role as point guard once the season begins. Recovery hasn’t been easy. By the time he’s done, he will have completed about 50 physical therapy sessions and countless hours of strengthening exercises at home.  

When asked what advice he’d give to other youth athletes who endure serious injuries, Branden says, “Keep your head up.”

“At some point, it becomes mental recovery, too,” Deanna says. “I watch Branden work to get over the hump of uncertainty about whether or not he can trust his knee to perform like it should. In physical therapy, they build confidence over time.”

Branden has used this time away from playing basketball to continue to learn the game from a different angle. He is helping coach a local club basketball team and working with young basketball players through Next Level Sports.

Branden also enjoys hanging out with friends, playing video games, and giving his younger sister, Camille, age 13, basketball pointers.

“I give her pointers, but she doesn’t really accept them,” he says.

Yep, it’s time to get back on the court.


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