An All-Star Comeback
When Greenwich High School senior, Alex Mozian, accepts his diploma in June, he will be celebrating the culmination of a remarkable year as Greenwich High School’s hockey star. After leading the Cardinals to the finals of the state championship, the 18-year senior was awarded team MVP as well as the Division 1 MVP and 1st Team All State by the CT State Hockey Coaches Association, among many other honors. What’s even more impressive about the young athlete’s accomplishments during his final year on the ice as a Cardinal is the fact that he was sidelined during his junior year for the entire season after sustaining consecutive injuries, any one of which could have ended his career.
“Before the injuries, Alex was getting noticed by college scouts. He was also selected for the USA hockey regional showcase camp, where college recruiters check out the talent,” explained Joe Mozian, Alex’s father. “Junior year should have been his year.”
Instead, Alex faced the daunting task of recovering and rebuilding his strength to get back on the ice as quickly as he could, working with a team of ONS specialists and physical therapists to help get him there.
Alex’s troubles began in December, 2016, when the skate of an opposing player lacerated Alex’s lower right leg. Alex collapsed on the ice and was taken to the nearest hospital emergency department where the injury was stitched up. Once at home, the pain and swelling increased hourly. It became apparent to parents and player that something more serious had occurred. Alex was able to see ONS foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon, Sean Peden, MD, the next morning.
Based on the nature of the cut and Alex’s inability to lift up his leg, Dr. Peden determined that a critical tendon had ruptured – the anterior tibial tendon. This tendon is responsible for lifting the foot during activities. A prompt MRI was obtained which confirmed the diagnosis.
“The tendon was completely severed and had retracted, meaning the cut edges had separated from each other significantly,” said Dr. Peden. Knowing how important return to play was to Alex, Dr. Peden performed a procedure that would allow him to maintain strength as much as possible to support a quicker recovery. He was in a cast for just 2 weeks.
Alex showed the same determination off the ice as he so regularly did on the ice. When he wasn’t working on post-surgical rehabilitation with his ONS physical therapist, Courtney Kirellis, to regain strength and mobility in his lower leg, Alex focused on building his upper body and core strength.
Remarkably, Alex was back on the ice by mid-March, and scored a hat trick and an assist at his first game in April, which was a national championship game. The family’s excitement was short lived, however. During his third game back, Alex suffered a knee-on-knee collision with an opponent that resulted in a lateral meniscus tear to his left knee. Once again, the Mozian family turned to ONS.
“After the fantastic experience we had with Alex’s first surgery, Alex insisted that he wanted to go back to ONS,” said Joe. “We had every confidence he would get the best care there.”
“Everyone at ONS made me feel like I was their most important patient. I felt like they were working with me so I could achieve my goals,” Alex explained.
Sports medicine physician and knee specialist, Dr. Katherine Vadasdi, surgically repaired the injury. The procedure went without a hitch, but Alex was in for the long haul with physical therapy rehabilitation. Not only did he miss the rest of the Nationals tournament, he had to sit out the US hockey showcase, and all the spring and summer showcase tournaments for colleges.
Understandably, the second injury took an emotional toll on the young athlete, as he watched his peers get accepted to college teams. But with Courtney’s help, Alex regained his strength and determination to stay active and ready to play. On his own, Alex lifted weights in his basement and practiced shooting 100 pucks a day while standing on one leg – the leg Dr. Peden had repaired.
“Alex was an ideal patient,” said Dr. Vadasdi, “He did everything in his power to stay strong and positive throughout a tough healing process.
Alex was cleared to skate in August, and when the school year began that fall, he was ready to reach out to recruiters. Then, the unthinkable happened. A freak collision with an opponent brought Alex crashing to the ice with the hockey stick still in his hand. The injury? A broken scaphoid bone in his right wrist, a particularly difficult bone to repair. While most upper extremity fractures take about 6 weeks to heal, scaphoid fractures typically take at least 12 weeks and sometimes as long as 6 months to heal.
This time Alex trusted the skilled hands of ONS’s Dr. Mark Vitale, an award-winning hand and wrist surgeon. Dr. Vitale understood how desperately Alex wanted to get back on the ice, and surgically inserted a tiny compression screw to stimulate healing.
“The surgery was personalized to Alex to allow for early range of motion and durable protection to the bone in the earlier healing periods, which is much more important to a high level athlete looking for rapid return to play,” explained Dr. Vitale.
Alex returned to the ice in October stronger and better than ever, scoring a season high 60 goals and assists to lead the Greenwich Cardinals to the state finals for the first time since 2014. And while Alex is sad to leave behind his Cardinals teammates when he graduates in June, his career will continue. Alex’s story and his post-surgical successes of the past season caught the attention of a number of coaches from elite prep schools. As a result he will pursue a post-graduate year at The Hotchkiss School, starting in the fall and his dream of playing NCAA hockey still alive.