Girl with ‘backward leg' back to doing gymnastics after Pittsburgh doctor's treatment

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PITTSBURGH —

Alyssa Collins wasn’t always so sure that miracles can happen until a Pittsburgh doctor discovered a groundbreaking treatment for her rare condition.

“The moment you're about to give up is the moment right before a miracle happens,” Collins told Channel 11’s Katherine Amenta.


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The 16-year-old Pittsburgh girl’s journey began on a soccer field in 2010.

“When I went to turn, my foot was stuck, and my whole leg just twisted, except my foot,” Collins said.

Her femur had snapped in half. It was a gruesome injury, but Collins was determined to move forward, with her sights firmly set on a new sport: gymnastics. Her plan was going along smoothly until 2014 when her mother noticed something about her daughter’s knee.

“I could hold my knee and just pull up,” Collins said.

According to doctors, Collins leg had started growing backward because of the old soccer injury. The front of her tibia had stopped growing while the back continued to grow. The condition is called a growth plate disturbance, with only a few cases ever having been reported.  

“Having someone tell you that they don't know, they've never seen this before, you're one in a million, it's terrifying,” Collins said.

After one surgery failed, Collins’s complex case was given to Rooney Sports Complex Director Dr. Volker Musahl. He explained that he needed to perform an osteotomy, using hip bone to make up the missing length to Collin’s leg.

“(It’s) not an easy surgery to recover from,” Musahl said.

Twelve screws and two plates later, Collin’s leg was finally repaired, but Musahl came away with a new mission. 

“I said, ‘We will try to get to get you back to gymnastics.” That's what we do, we're sports medicine,” he said.

Fighting through a year of pain and fear, Collin’s finally made it back to the mat. Reflecting on her past year, Collins said Musahl saved a lot more than just her leg. 

“Dr. Musahl saved my life,” she said.

Collins now enters gymnastic competitions, with the full support of her medical team.