Teenage Tennis Phenom Nets Recovery From Injury

MaiaFor 17-year-old Maia Sosa, not only did her tennis serve devastate her opponents, it also caused this teenage prodigy a lot of pain.

“I felt pain for a few years, and I thought it was just soreness,” Maia said. “Last summer, I was hitting one day and I couldn’t hold my racquet anymore. I had pain in my right arm, and I had numbness and tingling. I felt like my arm was pulsating all over.”

Maia’s father, Ricardo Sosa, began taking her to doctors, including sports specialists, a back specialist, general practitioners, and a neurosurgeon, with a variety of diagnoses given.

“We did shots, we did acupuncture, we did sports massages – we did everything,” Ricardo explains. “Nothing was helping, at least for very long.”

Finally, they were referred to Jennifer Bullock, a physical therapist and orthopedic certified specialist at Texas Health Outpatient Center Craig Ranch.

Bullock explained that Maia’s right side was weak, causing her to overuse less desirable muscles in the shoulder complex and torso. The pain first began during tennis but slowly became constant. Bullock recommended a treatment plan including postural restoration therapy to help Maia’s neuromuscular chain to “remember” the proper muscles to recruit during rest and activity.

Developed by Ron Hruska Jr., MPA, PT, a physical therapist in Nebraska, this new treatment method focuses on developing proper posture patterns that reflect our ability and inability to breathe, rotate and rest symmetrically. Bullock is completing a certification in the method to become one of 80 therapists in the country who are certified through the Postural Restoration Institute. Currently, there are only two certified therapists in the state of Texas, both located in Austin.

“Basically, all of us tend to have a neuromuscular pattern that we fall into,” Bullock explained. “It’s something you’re not even consciously doing. For example, Michael Jordan sticks his tongue out when he shoots a basket. It is a neuromuscular chain originating from the central nervous system that we can change but it takes effort and retraining, and it starts with the way that we breathe.”

Bullock conducted postural restoration with Maia through deep core exercises that, when practiced, can break the pattern. These exercises forced Maia to incorporate her diaphragm to breathe, rather than relying on her chest and shoulders.

“With this technique, I have treated patients ranging from ages eight to 74 with multiple diagnoses,” Jennifer said.

For Maia, getting better is serious business, and she happily does her homework. “I notice that when I don’t do the exercises, I get pain again!”

“Maia has benefited from it so much that now I have hope,” Ricardo said.

Maia focuses on her recovery, school and family, and is beginning to return to the court — continuing to dream of one day becoming a professional tennis player. If Maia gets muscle cramps one day from signing all those autographs for her fans, she’ll know to come to Texas Health Craig Ranch to see about getting back on the court.

Physicians on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital or Texas Health Resources.

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