Written by Alice Warchol, CHKD Staff Writer

Thanks to the expert, coordinated care of CHKD's Sports Medicine Program 

Caleb Coates never worried about playing basketball outdoors in his bare feet. So, when he scraped his left foot one August day, he had no idea that CalebCoates_Basketball such a minor injury would nearly derail his senior year playing basketball for First Colonial High School, or that it would land him in the hospital at CHKD.

Initially, Caleb thought he was just sore from working out or playing basketball. He noticed his Achilles tendon felt tight and he had some pain in his left foot when he tried to jump during practice. One morning, he woke up and knew something was definitely wrong. “My foot was ridiculously swollen,” says Caleb, who was 18 at the time. “It was bad.”

His parents quickly made an appointment for him with CHKD’s sports medicine program. It was a decision that saved his basketball season.

Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of sports medicine at CHKD, was immediately concerned that Caleb’s injury was more serious than it appeared. He ordered bloodwork, an X-ray, and an MRI.

“Right when I saw him, I was concerned about infection,” Brenner says. “I knew it wasn’t just a simple problem.”

Hours later, Caleb was on his way to be admitted to CHKD. His MRI revealed the area where his foot was scraped had developed cellulitis, a deep infection of the skin that’s caused by bacteria. Left untreated, it could form an abscess within his Achilles tendon or deeper within the ankle joint and require surgery.

“Luckily, we caught it early enough so that antibiotics were able to take care of the infection,” Brenner says.

For three days, Caleb required IV antibiotics to fight the infection. Worried about his upcoming basketball season and missing his friends, Caleb found great comfort when CHKD’s facility dog SaraLee would come visit him in his hospital room. The best part, he says, was when SaraLee would get on the hospital bed so he could pet her.

“SaraLee is the perfect dog,” Caleb says. “It would have been a lot harder to get through that week without her.”

Once Caleb’s infection was clearing up, he was referred to physical therapy through CHKD’s sport medicine program. With each session, Caleb grew stronger and felt his confidence return. He couldn’t wait to rejoin his teammates.

“The recovery happened faster than I thought it would,” Caleb says. “Physical therapy is definitely worth it. You come out of PT stronger and faster.”

When he was ready to start playing again, Caleb worked with the CHKD certified athletic trainer at his high school. By late September, he was back in action and playing full-speed basketball.

Overall, Caleb’s journey is an example of the expert, coordinated care that CHKD’s sports medicine program strives to provide.

“We all worked together to help Caleb heal and get back to playing basketball,” Brenner says.

Looking back, Caleb can only guess as to how the scrape on his foot became infected. He believes it may have happened when he did some yard work wearing nothing but his socks because it hurt too much to wear shoes. By the time he was finished, his socks were soaking wet and covered in grass clippings.

Caleb still likes to play basketball barefoot. But he says if he ever gets another cut on his foot, he will make sure to wear his shoes and keep the wound clean to help prevent infection.