Winning a Football Division Championship After a Knee Injury

When Naperville resident and South Dakota State quarterback Mark Gronowski took a big hit in the FCS Championship game in the spring of 2021, he worried about winning the game and the future of his football career.

“I got hit by two defensive players in the fourth play of the biggest game of the year,” Gronowski explains. “I felt like my knee had been folded in half and I was in total shock. It felt as if nothing was holding my knee together.”

After the team’s athletic trainers examined him on the sidelines, Gronowski was pulled from the game.

“I was just devastated,” he says. “I wanted to be on the field, but I had to change my focus and help from the sidelines however I could. We ended up losing the game in the last 15 seconds and I sobbed in the locker room. My emotions were really high.”

Following an evaluation by an orthopedic provider in nearby Sioux Falls, SD, Gronowski’s parents encouraged him to come home for an evaluation and to consider treatment closer to home. Immediately, he went to see Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph, a Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush sports medicine surgeon recommended by high school teammates who had experienced sports injuries followed by excellent outcomes with Dr. Bush-Joseph.

“I liked him right away,” Gronowski said. “He was direct and explained to me exactly what was torn, the procedure he would need to perform, the time it would take to heal my ACL, and that I would be back to myself with a lot of hard work”. After our discussion, it made me comfortable and I knew that Dr. Bush Joseph was the right guy to work with.”

Exactly one week after his injury, Gronowski underwent a successful surgery followed by seven weeks of physical therapy near his home in Naperville.

“Successful outcome after ACL surgery is dependent on a well-planned surgery and motivated patient for the rehabilitation,” explains Dr. Bush-Joseph. “I never doubted Mark's ability to get back on the field.”

Because the 2020 season was played in the spring of 2021, Mark missed the fall 2021 season. But when he returned in the fall of 2022, felt ‘100%’ and as if he had a brand-new knee. He was very pleased with the progress he’d made since the devastating injury in the Championship game.

Gronowski went on to enjoy a fantastic 2022 season which culminated in leading his team to win the FCS Championship, the first FCS title in Jackrabbit history. With 50 rushing yards, 223 passing yards, three touchdown passes and one rushing, and a ‘new knee,’ he was also named Most Outstanding Player of the Game.

Today, as a mechanical engineering student, he is considering a specialty in biomechanics to study and possibly improve upon orthopedic devices and implants like the ones that changed the trajectory of his athletic career.

“Thank you, Dr. Bush-Joseph, for helping me get back to playing football, and for introducing me to what could be a possible future career,” Gronowski says.

About Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph

A graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School in 1983, he is currently a Professor at Rush University Medical Center and the Associate Director of the Rush Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Fellowship Program. Dr. Bush-Joseph is a respected educator of medical students, residents, fellows, and practicing orthopedic surgeons lecturing at numerous national educational meetings. He serves on the editorial board of several national orthopedic journals, including the prestigious American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Long involved in the care of high school, collegiate, and recreational athletes, Dr. Bush-Joseph is a team physician for the Chicago White Sox Major League Baseball Club and Associate Team Physician for the Chicago Bulls. Through his experience with high-profile professional athletes, Dr. Bush-Joseph was elected to the Major League Baseball Medical Advisory Board and president of the Major League Baseball Team Physician Association in 2012.