Brunswick High School standout Jordyn Thomas overcame the threat of a season-ending injury to move on and dominate the 2020 OHSAA Gymnastics State Championship. As the state’s all-around champion, Jordyn credits Dr. Michael Canales, of the St. Vincent Spine and Orthopedic Institute for her ability to compete in the state championships.
Just two months before the competition, Jordyn felt the return of the shin pain that hindered her previous year’s state championship meet, leaving her in a boot and unable to train for three months. Coached by Dr. Canales’ wife, Olympic Gold Medalist Dominque Moceanu, at the couple’s gym in Medina, Jordyn sought the expertise of Dr. Canales.
Jordyn’s pain was the result of tibial and fibular stress reaction, a common overuse injury in gymnasts due to the repetitive force of rebounding and landing. If not treated properly, the condition would progress into a tibial stress fracture, requiring surgery and a 6-12 month recovery.
“I have gone to other doctors for this and other gymnastics injuries and the response is usually ‘take time off,” Jordyn said. “Dr. Canales didn’t say that. He said ‘time off isn’t what you need. What you need is to know your limits.”
In treating athletes, Dr. Canales applies a unique approach that requires open and frequent communication to develop a safe training plan to keep athletes in competition, rather than on the sidelines. The key, Dr. Canales says, is understanding a specific athlete’s limits – how much and what kind of training they can do before it aggravates or progresses an injury.
“The key is the entire team – the physician, the coaches, the parents – putting the athlete’s health first. By all of us working together, we prevented Jordyn’s condition from progressing into a surgical problem,” Dr. Canales said. “Beautiful things happen when everyone is on the same page to get the patient safely where they need to be.”
Through listening and regular communication, Dr. Canales worked with Jordyn to identify the specific parts of her training – the floor and vault - that were causing her pain and, more specifically, how many repetitions it took to bring on her pain. In conjunction with Jordyn, her coach and family, Dr. Canales then helped develop an adjusted training schedule that reduced the stress on Jordyn’ feet and legs, but still enabled her to maintain her skills and remain in competitive form.
“There is a narrow tightrope you are on to pull back just enough to keep the patient healthy, but still push them enough to ensure they are ready to compete,” Dr. Canales said. “We literally changed her training plan on a weekly basis to ensure that she was training at the right level and that she was safe.”
Jordyn said while she worried that easing back on her training would affect her skills, she had confidence in Dr. Canales’ expertise and his commitment to her health and safety. “I started to feel better and, then, two weeks before the meet, I felt perfectly fine,” she said. “As long as I listened to Dr. Canales, it all worked out in the end.”
And work out, it did. Not only did Jordyn win the state all-around competition, she shattered every school record during her 2020 postseason, winning the state title on the balance beam, the uneven bars and floor exercise. In addition, she led her team to a 2nd place overall finish – the highest Brunswick has ever placed in the statewide competition.
Jordyn’s mother, Kim, found comfort in knowing that Dr. Canales was frequently in the gym co-coaching and watching out for her daughter’s safety. “It is a balancing act being part physician and part coach, but Dr. Canales always put Jordyn as a person first. He was committed to her safety, protecting her from injury so she can pursue her goal of going farther in gymnastics.”