Surgery Saves Young, Metuchen, NJ, Athlete's Promising Future

Rodger Ward

April 21, 2022

Clinical Contributors to this story:

When Rodger Ward took a bad fall during a soccer game, the 11-year-old from Metuchen, New Jersey, faced the possibility that the broken femur in his right leg could end his future as a promising soccer player.

Rodger’s mother, Cynthia Obando, a Spanish teacher, remembers that day in June 2018 like it was yesterday. At first, she thought it was just another childhood accident; a few weeks in a cast and he’d be as good as new. Then she met Evan M. Curatolo, M.D., a pediatric orthopedic specialist, who examined her son and determined that the break in his leg involved the growth plate of the bone.

“Rodger fractured the growth plate in his femur, which happens in growing children with open growth plates,” Dr. Curatolo says. “Fractures at this location are at a high risk for future growth arrest, a condition that affects the growth plates.” In order to treat this fracture in a way that would allow his leg to continue to grow normally, Rodger would need surgery.

Hard Work and Dedication to Healing

A native of Ecuador, Cynthia remembers how kind and patient Dr. Curatolo was helping her understand the seriousness of Rodger’s injury and the need for surgery—that without it, Rodger potentially faced serious, crippling problems in his future.

On June 18, Dr. Curatolo performed the surgery, positioning the pieces of bone in their proper places and securing them with screws. Then Rodger was placed in a long leg cast that extended from his hip to his toes in order to keep his leg stable while it healed. Fortunately, the surgery was minimally invasive—meaning only a small incision and faster recovery.

After surgery, Rodger and Cynthia received training on how to do everyday activities such as moving and bathing. During his recovery, Rodger remained optimistic about quickly returning to the soccer field. But, five weeks after the surgery when the cast was removed and he felt how weak his leg was, he broke into tears.

That’s when his athlete’s heart took over. “He was a champ,” Dr. Curatolo says. “He required physical therapy multiple times a week and daily exercises at home multiple times a day. He put in the effort and work, and it paid off.”

Securing His Future

Knowing how dedicated the young soccer player was, Dr. Curatolo first estimated that Rodger would be able to begin gentle soccer training within three months of surgery. Because of his hard work, Rodger was cleared to start working out two weeks earlier than that.

Rodger has continued to develop as a soccer player. Currently he is a freshman at St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, where he plays on the soccer team. 

“I’ve only seen videos of Rodger playing soccer on his phone. But I look forward to seeing him in the Olympics—he won’t remember me, but I’ll remember him!” Dr. Curatolo says.

Next Steps & Resources:


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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