Knee Replacement - Virtua

Knee Replacement: Return to the Tennis Court

The following article is from South Jersey Magazine (September 2016):

Norman Birkenmeier’s whole life has been athletics. The one-time captain of his track team in high school has remained active well into his senior years and showed no signs of slowing down until one fateful winter’s day when the then 85-year-old slipped on some ice outside of his home and badly injured his leg. After visiting his regular doctor who had performed five arthroscopic surgeries on him previously, X-rays showed he had ruptured the tendons above his knee.

For the highly decorated and nationally ranked tennis player, it was a blow both physically and mentally. “Nothing in my entire life hurt like that [injury],” Birkenmeier says. “[My doctor] said, ‘You’re too old to play tennis the way you’re playing.’”

After spending four months hoping the injury would heal with no luck, Birkenmeier ended up being referred to Virtua’s Dr. Scott D. Schoifet, an orthopedic surgeon. Because Birkenemeir didn’t seek immediate attention, the injury to his knee had become so severe that Schoifet couldn’t help him until the tendons were repaired.

For Birkenmeier, it was more bad news and more uncertainty on whether or not he’d ever get the chance to play the sport he loves so much again.

“Here’s the thing about knee replacements, most are pretty routine,” Schoifet says. “He walks into my office and says he wants to play tennis. ... I could feel the tendons, nothing was there. You had to see the look on his face when you’re telling him, ‘I don’t think you’ll be able to play.’”

Despite the grim prognosis, Birkenmeier was determined to return to the court. “It probably came from the fact that I’ve always been competitive since I was a kid.”

After another surgeon was able to repair the quadriceps tendon, six months later Schoifet “reconstructed” the knee and after some rest and rehabilitation, Birkenmeier returned to his passion—even improving upon his national ranking. He continues to play around the country, though now he relegates his tournament play to doubles matches as a means to pre- serve his playing time. He also went from playing five- to-seven days a week to two, but not for the reasons you may think.

“It’s hard finding guys who are worth playing,” Birkenmeier quips.

Schoifet credits Birkenmeier’s undeterred spirit with helping guide him through the healing process. “If I had all patients like him, my job would be easy,” he says.

Once Birkenmeier was on the mend, some of the folks in the doctor’s office asked if he was going to return to playing tennis, as if there was ever a doubt. “I said, ‘You know I’m going to go back and play tennis. I have to keep active,’” he says.

Updated September 15, 2016

navigator access center

Contact Virtua

A Personal Health Navigator can help you find a doctor, schedule appointments or classes, and help you find a service or location.

1-888-VIRTUA-31-888-VIRTUA-3 Live Chat

You May Also Like

Virtua Joint Replacement Institute Patient Jim Springer

Jim is Climbing Mountains after Knee Replacement Surgery

Quad-sparing knee replacement at the Virtua Joint Replacement Institute helped Jim go from having severe pain while standing to climbing mountains with ease.

Read More
Back on the court after quad-sparing knee replacement

Back on the Court After Quad-Sparing Knee Replacement

Basketball official Barry Giordano spent many nights running up and down the court with knee pain. Quad-sparing knee replacement relieved his pain and gave him back his life.

Read More
Virtua Joint Replacement Institute Patient Story - Busillo

Crossing the Bridge for Knee Replacement Surgery

Linda Busillo of South Philadelphia traveled to Virtua for successful quad-sparing knee replacement surgery.

Read More
6 Exercises to Get You Back on Your Feet after Knee Replacement

6 Exercises to Get You Back on Your Feet after Knee Replacement

Physical therapy and exercise are essential for successful recovery after knee replacement. These 6 exercises help you gain range of motion so you can do everyday tasks.

Read More
Knee Millen

After Knee Replacement, Her Day Is Her Own

They ran, they biked, they hiked, but for four years what they did and where they went was dictated by how bad Pat’s knee hurt that day.

Read More
Joint Replacement - Virtua

After Knee Replacement, Ron is Back to Playing with His Grandkids

Ron is walking tall after having both knees replaced at the Virtua Joint Replacement Institute. He felt so good that he wrote a letter about his experience.

Read More
Knee Replacement - Virtua Joint Replacement Institute

Knee Replacement: Regaining His Life Without the Pain

Raymond was nervous about his full knee replacement, but the VJRI staff and physicians eased his trepidation and got him back on his feet again ... pain free.

Read More
every step knees

Knees: Every Step

When you suffer from chronic knee pain, you start counting every step. At Virtua, we practice the most minimally invasive knee replacement technique so you could stop counting and get your life back.

Watch Video
Michelle

Knee Replacement: Got Her Golf Game Back

Michelle had knee and hip pain that made it impossible to play golf. After surgery at the Virtua Joint Replacement Institute, she got her life and golf game back.

Watch Video
Charlie

Knee Replacement: Not Ready to Slow Down

Charlie wasn’t ready to slow down at age 61. The pain from arthritis kept him from doing the things he loved until he received quad-sparing knee replacement.

Watch Video
Joe

Knee Replacement: Battling Years of Pain

After 8 years of living with knee pain, Joe, age 52, got used to not being able to do everyday things until he had surgery at the Virtua Joint Replacement Institute.

Watch Video
Sharon

Knee Replacement: Back to Work and Play

When the arthritis pain got so bad that it limited her lifestyle, Sharon elected to have each of her knees replaced with Virtua’s minimally invasive, quad sparing technique.

Watch Video
Barry

Knee Replacement: Back on the Court

Basketball official Barry Giordano spent a lot of nights running up and down the court with pain. After quad-sparing knee surgery, he was back on the court 10 weeks later.

Watch Video