Chris and Lucas Matt
Chris and Lucas Matt share more than the same birthday. The identical twins now boast matching scars on their left legs, thanks to knee surgeries resulting from injuries they sustained playing football. But what makes their story truly unique is the fact that their surgeries were performed by the same surgeon, on the same day, at Texas Orthopedic Hospital in Houston.
On November 19, 2018, the Matt family drove from their home in Lake Charles, Louisiana, to Texas Orthopedic Hospital in Houston to undergo surgical reconstruction of the boys' left anterior cruciate ligaments, or ACLs, a ligament in the center of the knee, by orthopedic sports medicine specialist Hussein A. Elkousy, MD of Fondren Orthopedic Group.
Similar Injuries, a Year Apart
While the 8th graders' surgical journeys converged on that day, their injuries occurred a year apart. In December 2017, Chris tore his left ACL on the football field and underwent surgical repair in Lake Charles. After nine months of extensive physical therapy, he went for a follow-up appointment, only to find that the repair had failed.
About that time, Lucas injured his left knee on the football field, and an MRI revealed a torn ACL. With both of her sons requiring knee surgery, Christina did her homework and found Dr. Elkousy.
Same Surgery on the Same Day
The morning of the surgery, the family made the two and half hour drive to Houston, arriving in time for their 7 a.m. appointment. Christina recalls that "Lucas went first, because it was his first surgery, and he was worried. But Dr. Elkousy put us at ease, saying, 'Don't worry, I do this all the time.' He was very thorough and explained everything to us."
Dr. Elkousy describes the procedure he performed that day, saying, "When you tear an ACL, you usually can't really repair it, you have to reconstruct it by removing it and replacing it with something else. For Chris and Lucas, because they are still skeletally immature, meaning they are still growing, we used soft tissue from their hamstrings. While both procedures were essentially the same, Chris's situation was a little different in that he had undergone a prior ACL repair, a procedure which is not commonly performed and often fails."
As Dr. Elkousy explains, in addition to torn ligaments, the boys sustained cartilage injuries, or meniscus tears. (Meniscus refers to one of two crescent-shaped cartilages in the knee.) "Lucas had a meniscus tear on the lateral, or outside, part of the knee, and Chris had a meniscus tear on the medial, or inside, part of the knee. We used the same repair technique, just on different parts of their knees."
Home the Same Day
By 5 p.m., the Matts were back on the road and were home by 7 p.m. The boys were walking on crutches immediately and began the prescribed physical therapy protocol at home. Christina says, "Their physical therapist commented that the boys were so much more advanced than his typical patients. The boys wore a brace for the first six weeks, and when the brace came off, you wouldn't even know they had had surgery."
At four months post-surgery, the twins are able to swim, bike and lift weights, avoiding side-to-side cutting activity. They should be able to begin running in the next month, and if all goes well, they should be back on the football field in time to start their freshman football pre-season workouts."
The fact that the boys are competitive with each other was certainly a motivating factor, says Dr. Elkousy, adding, "Kids always want to hurry back into their sports, but I tell them there's no prize for first place. My job is to put on the brakes, to make sure they give themselves proper time to heal."
Looking back on the experience, Christina says if she had to do it all over again, she would do two things differently. "I would have waited on Chris' first surgery. I would not have done the repair. I would have waited until he was old enough for the reconstruction. And second, I would have gone straight to Houston, to Texas Orthopedic and Dr. Elkousy, rather than undergoing surgery in Lake Charles."
Common Injury, Especially Among Family Members
Dr. Elkousy says ACL tears are common among athletes, especially among female soccer players. Male football players, he says, are probably third.
While it may seem remarkable that the Matt brothers sustained almost identical injuries, he says it's not uncommon to see this type of injury run in families. "There are certain body types and certain genetic predispositions to this type of injury," he says. "We can train people on how to properly jump, how to land, how to move, but there is a certain amount that is nurture and a certain amount that is nature." Christina understands; she herself has had reconstructive knee surgery.