Top Athlete Supported by Circle of Caregivers

From the field to the clinic, our pediatric sports medicine experts support R.J in achieving his goals

R.J. with eyes closed

It takes a community to care for star high school athletes. No one knows this better than Rycklon “R.J.” Stephens, a rising senior at Sacred Heart Prep in Atherton, California. He receives wraparound care from Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.

“R.J. is a very intelligent, high-performing athlete,” says his doctor, Erin Grieb, MD, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health who sees patients in Burlingame and Palo Alto. “He tapped into his athletic ability later in life, and today he plays multiple sports year-round,”

At six-foot-two and 240 pounds, R.J. is being scouted by Division 1 (D1) colleges—the highest level of competition of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—to play football. He also plays basketball and participates in track and field. He qualified for state in shot put his junior year.

“I never joined a sports team until middle school, but PE was always my favorite subject,” says R.J. “Sports come naturally to me, and when I have a goal, I push through it and do it.”

Stanford Medicine Children’s Health’s six pediatric orthopedic locations across the Bay Area offer medical care, imaging, casting, and athletic trainers who attend practices and games at more than 20 area high schools, including Sacred Heart.

“I trust the athletic trainers and I feel confident in their abilities,” Dr. Grieb says. “Because we work hand in hand, I know the rehab they provide is high-quality. As a circle of caregivers, we really get to know these high-level athletes.”

R.J. in suit

R.J. is an all-around great person. He’s outgoing, compassionate, and a good student. He is involved in leadership and volunteer work at his high school—including serving as student body secretary and a program called Social Unity Rooted in Justice (SURJ), which focuses on making the world a better place.

“I like to bring people together and loop people into my friend group,” R.J. says.

With his busy life, it’s perfect to have a close-knit group of caregivers right in his community to take care of him—and a go-to doctor who gets him.

“Dr. Grieb’s husband is one of my coaches, so it was a fast, easy connection to start seeing her for my sports injuries,” R.J. says. “Plus, having the athletic trainers on my school campus makes life a lot easier.”

Dr. Grieb not only knows R.J. as a patient but also knows him as a player.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to tell my patients, ‘I saw your game last week,’” Dr. Grieb says.

Dr. Grieb has seen R.J. primarily for ankle injuries. She cared for him last year after two players fell on his ankle during a football game and he heard a crack. He was out for six weeks with a fracture and needed rehab to restrengthen his ankle.

“R.J. is a tough player who goes all-out for every play,” Dr. Grieb says. “It’s a pleasure to watch, but injuries can happen.”

R.J.’s latest injury was an ankle sprain that occurred at football camp during drills. Luckily, it put him out of play for only a few weeks, unlike the fracture last fall. When that happened, he had some decisions to make.

“I came in second for shot put, which qualified me for the Central Coast Section of the state championships, but with an injured ankle it was either go to state and push through it or rest, heal, and come back stronger for all my sports my senior year,” R.J. says. “I decided to rest it because I like to perform at my best.”

R.J. in football uniform

Dr. Grieb helped R.J. come to his decision. The two discussed his priorities, and he decided it was football rather than track and field—and performing his best for the college scouts who are now watching him play this summer at elite football camps. His camps are sponsored by D1 teams, including the University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; and the University of California, Los Angeles, among others, and he currently has offers to play football at Claremont McKenna College, Davidson College, Dartmouth College, Cornell University, and Yale University.

“When you have high-level athletes who get injured, you have to help them identify their main goal,” Dr. Grieb says. “I would have loved to see R.J. do everything, but when rehabbing, he had to prioritize.”

“I highly recommend the Burlingame clinic and Dr. Grieb,” R.J. says. “The care team talks directly to me about my injuries, and they are there for me every step of the way.”

R.J. is a mature young man. He understands that sports—and life—are a long game. “I’m visiting colleges right now and getting to know the coaches,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to go where I can get a good academic education and play for a top athletic program.” His attitude to stay focused and play his best is bound to get him there.

Learn more about the Sports Medicine Program >


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