As the vice president of marketing for the Williamsport Crosscutters minor league baseball team, Gabe Sinicropi, Jr. spends a lot of time on his feet. Arthritis in his knee was making it more and more difficult for him to stay on his feet for very long.
“It all started when I tore the cartilage in my left knee,” said Gabe.
Gabe didn’t want to have knee replacement surgery because he wanted to try to wait until he was 50 years old. So he and his doctor, Patrick Carey, DO, started with non-surgical methods to keep him moving. With over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and injections in his knee, he was able to keep up with the hectic pace of his job and the on-field activities at the Williamsport Crosscutters.
Eventually, the injections stopped working. By then, even his right knee was painful.
“I kept putting off surgery,” remembers Gabe. “With baseball season, I only have a few months each year when surgery and recovery are convenient. My goal was to have a knee replacement at 50, but then a few more years passed. I kept saying—next year.”
During the 2017 baseball season, at age 53, Gabe couldn’t take the pain any longer. He couldn’t walk around the stadium like he once did. At every home game he serves as the game host and the emcee, so he is on the field, in the stands, and talking to all the fans. When he would think about walking from one place to another, he would have to determine if he could make it without taking a break to sit down. If he did overdo it, he then had to deal with the pain and swelling that would come later. By the time he decided to have the surgery, he could barely mow his own lawn.
“I started to simply live with it and act like it was normal — but it wasn’t,” remembers Gabe.
He knew it was time for surgery. After weighing the pros and cons with his doctor, family, and friends, he decided he wanted to have bilateral knee replacement surgery.
“I took my time making the decision,” said Gabe. “I knew I didn’t want to be in the same situation with the other knee as soon as surgery was over."
Bilateral knee replacement isn’t for everyone and is only recommended for people who are already active and don’t have any underlying health conditions.
“From the time I checked in at the hospital until the time I finished physical therapy, I knew what to expect at every juncture,” said Gabe.
Gabe attended a joint replacement education class to prepare for the surgery. He understood before he even was scheduled for surgery he would be in the hospital for a week and he would be out of bed and moving on the day of surgery.
“From the time I checked in at the hospital until the time I finished physical therapy, I knew what to expect at every juncture,” said Gabe. “The staff at the Joint Center went over everything — it made it much easier.”
Gabe started physical therapy and occupational therapy immediately after surgery. During group therapy in the hospital, Gabe was motivated when he heard the stories of patients getting ready to go home.
“You get to know people in therapy, so to see them progress and go home is emotional. I felt like we were in it together,” remembers Gabe. “I also can’t say enough about my inpatient physical therapist, Rhonda Foster. She kept me going and pushed me just far enough each day.”
After being discharged from the hospital, he could move around his house and get himself in and out of bed, but he knew he had a lot of work ahead of him. Gabe immediately started outpatient physical therapy a few days a week for 12 weeks at UPMC Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation - Little River Plaza in Williamsport.
“It wasn’t easy, but the weeks flew by,” said Gabe. “My therapist, Steve, made me feel comfortable. I wasn’t embarrassed when I had trouble doing something, and each week I could feel the difference.”
Gabe knows bilateral knee replacement isn’t an option for everyone, but he is glad he chose to do both knees at the same time.
“While my competitive athletic days are long behind me, I came through it with flying colors,” said Gabe. “If you are considering having bilateral knee replacement, I would encourage you to do it.”