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Football player back on field

Tristen Webster, who is a football offensive and defensive lineman at the Tennessee School for the Deaf, suffered a horrific ankle injury last season.

As the Vikings’ practice was winding down one September evening in Knoxville, the coaches called for an unscripted scrimmage. “It was a loose ball situation and he ended up in a big pile,” said Tracy Webster, Tristen’s father.

No one knows exactly what happened next, but Tristen’s coaches could hear him screaming from the bottom of the pile at the end of the play. “His foot was turned around almost 180 degrees,” Tracy said. “His whole ankle was basically destroyed.”

X-rays would later show that Tristen suffered broken bones and torn ligaments and tendons.

While coaches called Tracy in West Tennessee, emergency responders shuttled Tristen to Knoxville’s University of Tennessee Medical Center. “They knew he would have to go to a surgery center,” Tracy said. “They were wondering if he would ever be able to run again.”

By the time Tracy made the long drive to Knoxville, doctors had stabilized and set Tristen’s ankle, and they sent him to the medical clinic on his campus. Early the next morning, the family returned to Jackson. Tristen was in a great deal of pain, and he felt every bump and turn along the way.

“It was one of the hardest drives I have ever made,” Tracy said.

Tracy had already contacted Tristen’s pediatrician, Dr. David Self, and Dr. Self had already made a referral to West Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic. Once in Jackson, the family met with Dr. Doug Haltom, and he scheduled surgery.

Dr. Haltom and the staff at West Tennessee Bone & Clinic were fast, efficient and trustworthy, Tracy said. And they thoroughly explained the situation to his son, who is deaf.

“They made an extra effort to communicate with him, make him comfortable and make sure he understood what was going on.”

In surgery, Dr. Haltom repaired the ankle and installed a plate with screws. Tristen was sent home with crutches and a boot. And then Tristen began to heal, returning to the clinic periodically for checkups.

“We did everything Dr. Haltom said to do,” Tracy said.

He discarded the crutches in early November and removed the boot later in the month. Although he did not prescribe physical therapy, Dr. Haltom told Tristen to gradually put weight back on the ankle. By the end of December, Dr. Haltom told Tristen he could return to sports.

“The second week of January, we were back at the gym,” Tracy said. And when spring practice arrived, Tristen was ready.

Through the entire ordeal, Tristen remained an honor-roll student while his classmates and teachers at Tennessee School for the Deaf continued to look to him as a leader. Today, he is 18 and in his senior year on the Vikings’ squad. He also is one of the best competitors on his CrossFit team.

He has made a full recovery.

“He has no pain,” Tracy said. “He goes full blast.”