Road To The Olympic Games

Pole vaulter Alysha Newman desperate to salvage season after suffering knee injury

Alysha Newman went to the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago in Eugene, Ore., intent on increasing her Canadian pole vault record again. Instead, she wound up with a serious knee injury that has left her season in jeopardy.

Undergoing special blood injections this week in hopes of competing at nationals next month

Alysha Newman is working hard to get back on the track after suffering a knee injury two weeks ago. (Kevin Light/CBC)

Alysha Newman went to the Prefontaine Classic two weeks ago in Eugene, Ore., intent on increasing her Canadian pole vault record again.

Instead, she wound up with a serious knee injury that has left her season in jeopardy. The Commonwealth Games gold medallist suffered a torn patellar tendon during the warmup in Eugene, but still attempted to compete on a day that went downhill quickly.

"The first day I think I didn't stop crying all day," Newman said. "I was really excited for my season. I thought I was going to jump 4.80 at Eugene."

The 23-year-old from Delaware, Ont., whose Canadian record is 4.75 metres, said she heard a pop during warmup at the Prefontaine Diamond League event, so she shut it down until the competition began. She made one attempt in competition after passing on her first two, but her knee hit the bar on the way over, eliminating her.

It didn't matter, her day was done anyway.

CBC Sports' Anson Henry features the champion Canadian pole vaulter, who is trying to get accustomed to a brand new set of poles, after her original ones were destroyed en route to a competition. 2:09

"I was thinking 'I have to go to the hospital.' My knee was as big as my quad, they couldn't even find my patella," Newman said. "There was so much swelling, they initially told me my patella tendon was ruptured."

An MRI in Toronto a couple of days later determined she had a five-millimetre tear in the tendon. Doctors initially told her she'd need to take six months off.

"I was like 'There's no way that can happen. The next six weeks are like the most important weeks of my life,' and it's a great setup for NACAC championships (in Toronto), and the Diamond League circuit," she said. "I said I needed something that was going to help me get through six weeks, and so I saw two orthopedic surgeons, who both said 'I've seen people finish the season with this type of injury."'

Platelet-rich plasma

In hopes of competing this season, she had a PRP — platelet-rich plasma — injection this week. The injections are prepared from the patient's own blood, and are spun in a centrifuge to separate the blood into different components. They're then injected into the injury to accelerate the healing process.

She's working with Canadian doctor Anthony Miniaci, who practises both in Toronto and Cleveland, and has worked with numerous NHL players as well as the Cleveland Browns, Indians and Cavaliers.

Newman had a major setback earlier this week. Scheduled to jump in Thursday's Diamond League meet in Oslo, it was suggested she do a test jump on the knee on Monday before flying all the way to Europe.

"(The injury) pretty much went back to square one, after the 10 days we had taken off," she said.

Newman hopes to compete at the national championships next month in Ottawa, but could receive an injury exemption and still be named to Canada's team for the NACAC championships in Toronto in August.

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