At 12-years-old Allie Kantor was a talented golfer making a name for herself in her home state of Georgia and around the nation. Even after spending hours on the golf course, she never complained of back pain, and her parents never noticed anything peculiar about her posture. So, when a routine physical exam revealed that Allie had scoliosis, the Kantors were surprised. And more shocking was the news that her curve – at 30 degrees – was fairly significant.
Although she was only 12 years old, Allie had the maturity to advocate for her own scoliosis treatment. With her parents’ support, she led the efforts to research the condition and understand the options. Keeping her dedication to her sport in mind, she focused on non-invasive treatments. Swinging a golf club requires significant rotation of the spine, so Allie knew that surgery would likely limit, if not end, her ability to play golf at a high level.
“[Spinal Fusion] Surgery was simply not an option for me. I was determined to do whatever it took to avoid it,” says Allie. “I was willing to step away from golf for a time, but my goal was to get back to competing at the level I had before.”
Allie recalls that the initial orthopedic specialist she met only spent about five minutes with her, and she quickly wrote a prescription for a Boston brace. Unconvinced that this was the best course of action, Allie and her family sought a second opinion and began searching for other options. While they were encouraged by research on the Rigo Cheneau brace, this relatively new bracing technology was not available in Atlanta at the time. Dr. Nicholas Fletcher, now of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, referred Allie and her family to National Scoliosis Center in Fairfax, Virginia. Here they met with Luke Stikeleather, Chief Orthotist, and began the process of getting fitted for a Rigo Cheneau brace.
“I absolutely loved going to meet with Luke. I love science and wanted to know all about the process of making the brace,” says Allie. “I really appreciated that he never talked around me or about me as if I wasn’t there. It means a lot when a doctor or a specialist engages you and explains everything. Luke often asked for my input and even let me drill a couple of [ventilation] holes in the brace myself.”
Digging into her competitive spirit and maintaining a positive mindset, Allie wore her brace for 22 hours a day for 18 months and then at night for an additional six months. She continued to see Dr. Fletcher and received physical therapy from Kristin Howell in Atlanta. Over the course of her treatment, Allie traveled to Virginia every three to four months for brace adjustments at National Scoliosis Center. As a result, her curve decreased by eight degrees and she successfully avoided surgery. She has been out of her brace for three years and is doing well.
Now a 17-year-old high school senior, Allie helps newly diagnosed scoliosis patients receive quality care by leading a fundraising campaign through the American Junior Golf Association’s Leadership Links. To date she has raised over $7,000 for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Regarding advice she might give to new patients, she emphasizes the importance of relying on a support network and trusting that “if you do what you’re supposed to do, it will work.”
Allie can now celebrate the results of her hard work and diligence complying with her bracing treatment by getting back on the golf course and elevating her game back to a competitive level. In February, she won her first tournament since finishing her treatment at the University of Georgia. This past summer she took a huge step toward realizing her dream to play college golf by committing to play at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville next year.
No doubt about it, the commitment to bracing can be difficult, but Allie took ownership of her own health. She stuck to her bracing and physical therapy; and did everything Luke and Dr. Fletcher advised. Allie’s dedication and perseverance directly resulted in a remarkable curve correction. Despite her young age, she met the challenges of her journey with the foresight and maturity to play the long game.
-Written in collaboration with Allie Kantor