Gearing up for his last season of high school baseball, St. Rita High School star athlete Danny Gleaves, 18, of Homer Glen is stronger than ever. It’s a comeback time for him after a broken and dislocated ankle in August of 2014 that had him benched until the winter practice season. “I did everything I could during rehab to step back on the field,” Gleaves said. His first step was surgery. His broken fibula, the calf bone on the outside of the lower leg that connects to the ankle joint, had shattered at the tip, leaving bone chips in his ankle.

baseball player

“Danny’s surgery was a bit more complex,” said Ari Kaz, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the Chicago Center for Orthopedics at Weiss Memorial Hospital who specializes in foot and ankle conditions. Dr. Kaz also is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“Typically, surgery to fix an ankle fracture is straightforward. We use a metal plate and screws to repair and stabilize the joint. But Danny’s surgery also required removing bone fragments and preserving the cartilage before reattaching the fibula to the ankle joint,” Dr. Kaz explained.

“We really owe a lot to Dr. Kaz,” said Bill Gleaves, Danny’s father. “He took the extra time to remove the pieces of bone that had broken off, and made sure Danny’s ankle was reattached right. He’s a perfectionist, and we appreciate it.”

Danny’s future looks bright after a successful surgery and rehabilitation. He’s been working on his strength, speed and agility ever since to be his best as a hitter and in center field, a position that requires speed. He ran his fastest 60-yard time in May 2015 at a baseball pro showcase – 6.61 seconds – a little more than eight months post-surgery.  “Obviously this wouldn’t have been achievable without the work of Dr. Kaz and his team,” noted Danny’s father.

Over the summer, Danny played with the elite travel team Illinois Sparks, and during the fall and winter, he’s kept up with one-on-one workouts. He enters his senior year of play strong and with a scholarship to play baseball at Michigan State University in the fall.

Ankle injuries are common among athletes. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), a quarter of athletic injuries are foot and ankle-related.

No longer taking anything for granted, Danny has some words of wisdom for other young athletes who might be faced with an ankle break like his: “Listen to what the specialists tell you to do and do whatever it takes to get back in the game.”

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University