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Women’s Sports Medicine: Injured Triathlete Credits Specialized Care for Female Athletes

Anne Torrez has never been one to shy away from challenges. When she decided to compete in her first triathlon on a whim in 2009, Torrez admits not only was she feeling unhealthy, she didn’t even know how to swim.

“It was kind of a not well-thought-out decision, but probably the best decision I ever made in my life,” Torrez says. “It literally changed the trajectory of my life.”

Not athletic as a kid, or even in her early 20s, Torrez decided she wanted to try a triathlon because her sister had competed in one.

Since Torrez didn’t know how to swim, she enrolled in adult beginner swimming lessons – where she initially had to grab on to the side of the pool to make her way from one end to the other.

“Obviously it was a big learning curve,” Torrez says. “But I needed a major goal to really scare myself out of my rut. I realized I had never had something that required me to gain confidence in myself.”

After her first triathlon, Torrez was hooked. She continued to compete, becoming a certified triathlon coach in 2013, and now has her own multisport coaching business, Tri it Your Way.

Then, last July, Torrez, of Exeter, had to call on that same kind of grit, when she was struck by a car while on a training ride in a bike lane.

“The car took a right-hand turn right into me,” says Torrez, 38, who was wearing a helmet. “I didn’t break any bones, but I landed on my face, as well as my right elbow and hip/glute.”

It was soon apparent that Torrez had a concussion, ocular damage, tendon injuries in her elbow, a hip contusion, and strained muscles and tendons in both her neck and back.

Months later, frustrated with her lack of progress for symptoms like motion sickness and eye tracking difficulties, Torrez was referred to the Wentworth-Douglass Concussion Rehab Program for concussion care.

As part of the comprehensive Wentworth-Douglass Center for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine’s specialized Women’s Sports Medicine Program (WSMP), Torrez was quickly referred to rehabilitation services including: Physical Therapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT), Speech Therapy, and Sports Psychology, says Dr. Jennifer Hopp, a board-certified sports medicine physician and program director for WSMP.

“When I started going to Dr. Hopp and her full team of specialists, that was a game changer,” Torrez says. “Up until then everyone had said, ‘Give it time you’ll feel better.’ It had been eight weeks.”

In addition to visits with Dr. Hopp, Torrez began twice-weekly therapy treatments with OT for her right eye and elbow, PT for her balance, neck and hip, and speech therapy.

“Their team understood every woman is different and every experience is different,” Torrez says. “Having them there for me, paying attention to what I said and my feedback on how I was doing, really made the difference.”

Torrez “was an amazing patient to work with, incredibly motivated because she wanted to get back to her sport and her life,” Dr. Hopp says. “Helping female athletes recover from their injury to get back to sports, training and working out, is a true privilege.”

Now Torrez has returned to coaching and training, while working with Sports Psychology to address her fear of returning to road biking, and the Marsh Brook Rehab Center for Athletes for continuing rehab of her ongoing muscular injuries. But she’s thankful to be on the road to full recovery and to spend time with her husband, Sean, and two daughters, Emmy, 7, and Clara, 3.

“There were a lot of tough moments,” she says. “But just the desire to get back to doing what I love made it not a question.”

A testament to her care team? “When Dr. Hopp cleared me of my concussion-related issues for return to normal activity, I told her, ‘I feel sad that I can’t come to see all of you anymore,’” Torrez says. “Because it was that much of a positive experience with everyone on the team.”

Learn more about the Women's Sports Medicine Program at Wentworth Douglass Hospital.

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