By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(01-Mar) — Six-time NCAA Division II champion Neely Spence Gracey will undergo surgery on her left knee to address a complication from an abnormality in her kneecap called Patella Bipartite. The 23 year-old, who attended Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania but now lives in Lake Orion Mich., said through her blog (editor’s note: the blog is interesting and worth a read) that the surgery would address her persistent knee pain and inflammation. She hasn’t been able to run since last November, she said.
“My left knee has been inflamed and unhappy with every step of running and it just wasn’t responding to treatments in a timely manner,” she wrote. “After ruling out ITB syndrome, Patella Femoral Syndrome, a shifted femur, a loose S.I. joint I got fed up with the guessing game and felt something more serious was going on.”
An MRI showed Patella Bipartite, a crack in the kneecaps, and a visible fragmentation of the kneecap in her left knee. According to Spence Gracey, her kneecaps did not fully harden in childhood like a typical child’s does.
“My patella never fully fused into a solid bone,” the Hansons-Brooks athlete continued. “Rather, it left a strip of cartilage that compromised the integrity of my kneecap. Apparently, 75% of people who have this, never even know because they have no effect from it. But being a runner, I put a lot of extra strain on my joints and bones and well, here I am with not many options. I need surgery.”
Spence Gracey said the surgery was scheduled for March 6, and that her orthopedic surgeon called the procedure “a very easy surgery.”
“He just has to chip off the fragmented piece of the patella, smooth it off, and sew it up,” she wrote. “Doesn’t sound so bad.”
In her last year of college in 2011 when she was still coached by her father Steve Spence, Spence Gracey won the NCAA Division II titles in cross country and 5000m (she was also second indoors). She also placed seventh at the USA Outdoor Championships at 5000m, running a personal best 15:27.72. She progressed again 2012 under the coaching of Keith and Kevin Hanson, setting personal bests at 10,000m (32:16.51), 10 km (32:51), 8 km (25:22) and 5 km (15:34). Last year, she did her best running on the turf, finishing fifth at the USA Cross Country Championships and 13th at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships where she was the top non-African finisher.
Looking ahead, Spence Gracey is optimistic but isn’t sure what to expect after her surgery.
“Support is what keeps me positive, and I am asking for any runners who have had this (or knows someone who did), who might be willing to share their experience with the rehab after surgery,” she wrote. “Any suggestions, ideas, time lines, expectations etc., would be greatly appreciated.”