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Fixing the Unfixable: Bettendorf Crossfitter Strong after Shoulder, Biceps Surgery

Olivia Schmidt

“It was like a bomb went off in her shoulder,” ORA Sports Medicine Surgeon, Dr. Suleman Hussain, says as he recalled the emergency surgery he performed on Bettendorf Crossfitter, Olivia Schmidt.

“Her injuries were so extensive; 5 years ago, she would have been disabled.”

Fortunately for Olivia, she’s back doing many of the high-level weightlifting and gymnastic movements she had been previously as an elite-level, CrossFit athlete, thanks to Dr. Hussain’s expertise and months of physical therapy.

Dr. Suleman Hussain, ORA Orthopedics
Dr. Suleman Hussain, ORA Orthopedics

Olivia recalls the injury, which took place during an afternoon workout. “A year ago, I had been doing a lot of training leading up to a competition. During a pull-up, I felt a pop in my shoulder. When I tried to continue, I felt my shoulder give way.”

The Bettendorf native and 36-year-old mother of 2 is no stranger to hard work or competition, having played scholarship volleyball for Minnesota State, where she also received her degree in health sciences. Currently, she serves as the director of the boot camp program at CrossFit Bettendorf.

However, her most recent injury cast doubt on whether she would ever compete or train at an elite level again.

“Her shoulder sustained significant injury, her rotator cuff and labrum were torn, and her biceps were dislocated,” says Dr. Hussain. “I performed arthroscopic surgery to repair her tendons. And, thanks to new advancements in anesthesia, muscle-sparing and minimally-invasive surgical techniques, along with sound rehabilitation, Olivia made a fantastic recovery.”

Olivia credits not only her skilled surgeon, but also the expertise of ORA Physical Therapist, Jordan DeNeve.

Jordan DeNeve, ORA Physical Therapist
Jordan DeNeve, ORA Physical Therapist

“Jordan was my savior. I worked with her twice a week for six months. She even came to my gym so she could understand the advanced elements of my workouts.

“Originally, I was prepared by my medical team that the final outcome and my ability to perform these activities were uncertain, but I took things one day at a time and worked to make progress.”

In the beginning, Jordan says that physical therapy was largely comprised of her moving Olivia’s shoulder for her.

“It was the hardest part, when there wasn’t much she could do to help progress herself, however she was patient and understood this was time she needed to heal. Our goals were to first regain motion, then, after about three months, start resisted strengthening. At 5 months post-surgery, Dr. Hussain cleared her for light barbell work.”

During the entire process, Olivia continued to coach and instruct classes at the gym.

“Even in my immobilizer, I would guide the experienced bootcampers so they could demonstrate movements I was not able to for the class.”

One year after her injury, Olivia has regained the ability to perform all the movements she once worked so hard to learn.

“My goal for my one year anniversary was to safely complete the workout I was unable to finish due to my injury,” Olivia says.

When she came to the gym, her family and friends surprised her by completing the workout alongside her.

“I am so grateful,” says Olivia. “My friends, family, Jordan, and Dr. Hussain, they were all great. The injury also gave me perspective on what’s important: My main priority is to be a mother and a coach. Doing the things you love is 100 times better when you get to spend that time with the people you love!”