• In the Loop: Back on the field against all odds

Football on a field in a stadium at night with lights

After a gruesome knee injury, McKenzie Milton faced not only an uncertain future in football but a question as to whether he'd walk again without pain. His return to the field this fall surprised even his Mayo Clinic surgeon.

McKenzie Milton knows about teamwork. Milton, a quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles, has been leading teams to victory since his days as a quarterback at Mililani High School in Hawaii. When he was a sophomore at the University of Central Florida, he was named American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year and was on the shortlist for the Heisman trophy.

Then, during his junior year, Milton had a devastating injury that led him to become part of a team he'd hoped never to join: a medical team led by orthopedic surgeon Bruce Levy, M.D., dedicated to sparing his leg. But that team would do even more. They'd help get Milton back in the game. 

In November 2018, Milton "suffered a knee dislocation where the thigh bone and the lower leg bone were completely dislocated," the Orlando Sentinel reports. The injury also involved torn ligaments and tendons, and damage to the main artery feeding blood to Milton's leg. The injury was "so gruesome that you don't want to watch it," exclaimed Yahoo! Sports. "And the reality turned out to be worse than the video, as there was talk of amputation in the immediate aftermath."

Milton came to Mayo Clinic six weeks after the injury. Before Milton arrived, Dr. Levy had "gone through all of the college and NFL databases on prior players that had dislocated their knee" and found "one or two that were able to get back to playing, but none with this specific ligament, vascular and nerve injury." He told Milton his goals for surgery were to save his leg and allow him to walk without pain.

What about football, Milton wondered? Dr. Levy explained his chances of playing again this way: "Imagine you're a rookie, and it's your first at-bat in the major leagues. The bases are loaded, and you hit a grand slam home run. Then you do it three more times in the same game."

To Milton, that wasn't discouraging. It meant he had a chance at getting back to the game he loved.

Read the rest of McKenzie's story on In the Loop.

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