Beth Stam was at the top of her game in 2011 before an injury cut her track and field season short at George Fox University.
Stam, now 23 and a college graduate, excelled in the javelin and the heptathlon before injuring her throwing-arm elbow during a meet her junior year.
“I heard a pop, but after the meet, I didn’t think the injury was too serious,” recalled Stam. “But the next time I threw, not only was it painful, but I also had no strength or power.”
Trainers at George Fox recommended that Stam see a specialist and gave her options of going to an orthopedic surgeon close by in Newberg or Corvallis-based Luis Vela, DO, who specializes in throwing and overhead athletic injuries.
Surgery, Rehabilitation & Triumph
“My trainer said, ‘There’s a doctor in Corvallis who treats most of the OSU baseball team,’” said Stam. “I said, ‘that’s the guy I want to see.’” Vela reviewed Stam’s MRI, which showed that her ligament had been torn more than 50 percent in her elbow. The injury made her a candidate for Tommy John surgery, which replaces the ligament with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
“Tommy John, which is named after a baseball pitcher who was the first person to successfully undergo the procedure and return to his sport, is a great option for athletes,” said Vela. “Research shows that the surgery not only restores elbow strength, but can make it four times as strong as the original ligament.”
After Vela performed the surgery at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, Stam began an aggressive rehabilitation program through Vela’s clinic.
“I took a year off and focused on getting better,” said Stam. “I wanted to get back to competition.”
In the fall of 2012, Stam rejoined the track and field team and was back to top form by the spring season of 2013. In fact, last May she won the Women’s Javelin at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships and earned all-American honors for her performance.
“It felt so great to be able to come back and compete for my senior year,” said Stam. “I’m very thankful for the great care I received from Dr. Vela.”