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Sports / Orthopedic

One Rodeo Star’s Ride from Elbow Injury to Recovery

Jun 23 2022

It was finals weekend in October of 2021 – and Sally Poteat was competing in her last rodeo of the season.

Riding since she was 6 years old, and rodeoing for the past eight years, Sally was ready. She was riding a different horse than normal, but one with plenty of experience and she was prepared to close out the season with a win.

But she, nor anyone else, expected what would happen next.

“I ran my barrel pattern, and I had a good run. I was riding out when, we think, something with the light caught the horse’s eye and he sidestepped,” Sally explains. “I completely lost my balance, fell off and hit the 90, or the 90-degree turn where the bulls are loaded into the bucking chutes. There was a sheet of metal and I completely just wrecked it – today, there is a dent in the metal from where I fell into it.”

She says that everyone was concerned, thinking she’d hit her head. Luckily, that wasn’t the case, but Sally still didn’t escape the fall unharmed.

“When I was coming off, I went into ‘save myself mode’ and shielded my face with my arm, which thankfully, saved my face, but ended up hurting my elbow,” Sally shares. “I shattered my radial head, fractured the other part of my elbow and injured the muscles surrounding it. Basically, I shattered my entire elbow.”

Sally was sent to Alan Posta, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Bon Secours Piedmont Orthopedics. He’s also the medical director for the Bon Secours St. Francis Eastside total shoulder arthroplasty program.

“Radial head fractures are very common, and isolated radial head fractures are typically treated without surgery. Most of them do very well,” Dr. Posta explains. “There may be some discomfort initially, but most are healed after a brief period of immobilization.”

Unfortunately, Sally’s injury was more extensive than the typical radial head fracture. In order to heal and get Sally back to riding, her injury had to be treated surgically.

“Sally had what we call the ‘terrible triad,’ which consists of a radial head fracture, a coronoid fracture and an elbow subluxation and dislocation,” Dr. Posta shares. “Her elbow was inherently unstable – and her radial head was literally in pieces.”

Still, through surgery, Dr. Posta and his team were able to repair the damage, putting Sally on the path to a full recovery.

After her surgery, Sally spent the rest of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 in a splint. The injury was on Sally’s dominant arm, so she also spent as much time as she could in physical therapy, ensuring she could build her strength back.

Today, Sally is a rising sophomore at the University of South Carolina – Upstate, where she is majoring in biology and has plans to attend dental school. Thanks to Dr. Posta, she is also still living out her lifelong dream of riding horses and participating in rodeos. In March, Sally competed in her first rodeo since her surgery, where she not only participated but also won her events as well.

“Dr. Posta and his team were amazing,” Sally shares. “He understood that my elbow was broken and that I needed it fixed, but also that I needed to be able to ride – and that I had to get back to where I was. He did everything in his willpower to make that possible for me, and he did.”

Learn more about the orthopedics and sports medicine services we offer at Bon Secours.

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