UBOSM physician Brian McGrath, M.D. received the following thank you note from his patient Jodi Battaglia after her successful hip surgery and rehabilitation for a torn labrum; her full story from the Buffalo News is reprinted below.
“Dr. McGrath, I wanted to thank you for helping both myself and my team to have our most successful season in our program’s history. The surgery you performed last summer allowed me to play pain free and at full strength and I couldn’t be more thankful!”
University at Albany Great Danes
from the Buffalo News, 6-20-11, written by Tyler Dunne, reprinted with permission
Games were painful to watch last year. From the stands, Mom and Dad cringed. Their daughter hobbled up and down the lacrosse field at the University at Albany, a shell of her former self. Slowed by a piercing hip injury, former Amherst standout Jodi Battaglia tried to tough out her junior year. “It was agonizing to watch her try to move out there,” said Battaglia’s dad, Peter. “It was tough. Your kid’s hurting.”
Battaglia needed surgery. Dad wondered if she’d play lacrosse ever again. And now, after a successful rehab, Battaglia is polishing off one of the best seasons in program history.
Tonight at 8, the Great Danes have a chance to take down perennial heavyweight Northwestern in the NCAA quarterfinals. Battaglia’s complete turnaround from last year’s hip injury has been the key to Albany — hardly a lacrosse hotbed — climbing to No. 8 in the country. The senior attack has set a school record with 54 goals.
After last season’s nightmare, she never imagined setting this mark. Instead, her team is a perfect 18-0.
“Our team has definitely worked hard all season, overcoming a lot of adversity,” Battaglia said. “We just find a way to win each game.”
The hip injury didn’t strike Battaglia all of a sudden. It wasn’t the result of one single play, one eyesore cheap shot from an opponent. Rather, it was a steady, excruciating regression. Battaglia tried to brave through it. As a freshman, she scored 23 goals. As a sophomore, she had 38. Redshirting was a possibility, but Battaglia opted to tough it out as long as she could. Nothing was going to hold her back, certainly not pain in her hip.
However, the torn labrum continued to worsen, knifing through her hip every time she put pressure on her foot. In 10 games, she had three goals and 11 assists.
“It got worse and worse and worse, to a point where I couldn’t even run,” Battaglia said. “It was a struggle before I had a surgery. Playing on it was painful. And then it was even worse to sit and have to watch my team. We had a great season but it was hard to sit back and watch.”
Peter Battaglia, who had two hip replacements himself, was worried. He told his daughter that lacrosse should be the least of her concerns, should be trivial in the grand scope of things. After suffering through similar pain himself, he wondered if she’d be able to walk the same after all of this.
“The most important thing,” he told her, “is that you have your life to live.”
Following the surgery in June, Battaglia underwent rehab constantly. Through extensive speed and agility drills, her range of motion resurfaced. Her strength came back. Her confidence? Not so much. Battaglia had her doubts. Throughout her athletic career — at every level — she had never suffered a serious injury. Some tweaked ankles here and there, but she never missed a game.
With the surgery, the absence from competition, everything, part of Battaglia wondered if she’d be perpetually stuck in second gear.
“I was definitely concerned,” she said. “I was nervous about that. But at the same time, I didn’t want to let that stand in the way. I was just going to come back as strong as I could.”
That’s exactly what she did.
While the Great Danes endured a multicar pileup of injuries, Battaglia kept elevating her game. Three key players suffered season-ending ACL tears. A slew of others have endured minor ailments.
And Battaglia’s scoring touch has been one constant through the wreckage.
“Before, she tried to do one or two too many moves,” Albany coach John Battaglino said. “Now, she’s letting it go and it seems to be working.”
As the wins accumulated, her parents stopped asking Battaglia how she felt. The Great Danes have been somewhat of a team of destiny this season, winning five one-goal games en route to their first-ever league title. In Albany’s 18-7 America East semifinal win over New Hampshire, Battaglia scored five goals. In an 11-4 title triumph over the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, she had five goals and two assists.
And then against Dartmouth, in a tightly contested NCAA first round matchup, she had a hat trick. Her 54th goal of the season gave the Great Danes a two-goal cushion in a 10-7 win.
Now in the quarterfinals, the Great Danes are the nation’s last remaining undefeated team. Tonight, they run into the gold standard for their sport. Northwestern has won five of the last six Division I titles. It’s no secret what the Wildcats’ objective will be.
Albany relies heavily on the 1-2 punch of Battaglia and Taylor Frink (34 goals, 49 assists). The two “know what each other’s thinking,” Battaglia said. Without question, Northwestern will flood defenders toward this dynamic duo. Battaglia will be a magnet.
“She’s going to get a lot of attention and have tough matchups in there,” Battaglino said. “We’d like to get her the ball if she’s open. If she’s drawing defenders, we’ll have to look somewhere else. Either way, she’s going to open things up. She’s savvy in there.”
Battaglia wound up at Albany through the recommendation of a friend. She overcame being lightly recruited and a potentially career-ending injury to reach today’s Elite Eight.
As far as she’s concerned, there’s no reason it should end now.
“We want to keep this rolling,” she said. “We’ve come this far and it’s the first time our program has ever been here. We don’t want to lose. We’re not patting ourselves on the back.
“Our eyes are ahead.”