Athletics: The long road to recovery was a learning experience for Pecarich

Brainerd senior Chloe Pecarich endured a summer of rehab in order to get back on the tennis court and be among her teammates and the Warriors' winning ways.

Brainerd Warrior Chloe Pecarich focuses on the ball during a recent tennis match at the Brainerd High School Courts. Pecarich has begun the journey of healing after having a major operation. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Chloe Pecarich isn’t sure if she’s a good artist or not, but as she said, she’s got her own style.

She was happily thrust into the world of painting and mixed media art because of a tennis accident that made even sleeping unbearable.

It wasn’t until right before hip surgery when Pecarich realized she lacked a hobby.

“Before this surgery, tennis was my whole entire life,” Pecarich said. “It was all I cared about — all I did. Before I had this surgery, because it’s such an intense surgery, they make you meet with a psychiatrist to get cleared. As I was talking to her, she pointed out that I didn’t have any hobbies except for tennis and working out. When those two things are taken away from me, I really had to start finding things I was passionate about. I realized that you can’t just rely on a sport and I can’t just rely on tennis to be my main source of happiness because it can be taken away from you at any moment.”

For a while tennis, and even walking, was taken away from the Brainerd High School senior.


On Sept. 23, 2019, during a Central Lakes Conference dual meet in Brainerd against Willmar, the then junior slipped and tore her labrum or cartilage that follows the outside rim of the hip joint socket.

According to Mayo Clinic, the labrum not only cushions the hip joint, but acts like a rubber seal or gasket to help hold the ball at the top of a thigh bone securely within the hip socket.

Pecarich and her No. 2 doubles partner Addie Sanford won that match 7-5, 6-2.

The Warriors had two more regular-season matches and then headed into the North Subsection 8-2A team and individual tournaments.

Brainerd beat Moorhead 5-2 in the subsection tournament to advance to sections. The team of Sanford-Pecarich won 6-4, 6-2. The duo then posted two wins in the subsection individual tournament to advance to sections, where they played two more matches between the team and individual tournaments.

“I didn’t want to stop, but it was pretty bad,” Pecarich said. “By the time I had my surgery, they were surprised I was even able to walk still.”

Getting to the surgery was a source of frustration for Pecarich who said the hardest things for her were walking and sleeping. She said she struggled to get into her car and then transferring her foot from the gas pedal to the break was painful.

“I was first diagnosed with nothing and sent to physical therapy for four months where nothing happened,” Pecarich said. “Then I was diagnosed with my tear and then another week or two went by and another hospital called and said they were sending me somewhere else because they couldn’t help with my hip dysplasia and I had no clue I even had that yet.”


Pecarich’s physical therapist David Hughes at Big Stone Therapies called it a significant surgery.

“Her underlying diagnosis is called hip dysplasia and basically hip dysplasia is her sockets, which are part of her pelvis, her sockets are not as deep so they’re a little flatter and then they aren’t as stable. What the surgery entailed was going in and reconstructing that socket and making it deeper. They go in and cut the bones of the pelvis and rearrange the bone in and around the pelvis and the socket.

“Think of it as a bowl versus a plate. The plate would be fairly flat and not real deep versus a bowl that would be deep and would be able to hold stuff. They reconstruct that flat hip socket and make it deeper. It requires cutting bone and pinning and screwing bone back together.”

Despite the delayed diagnosis, Pecarich was lucky enough to have her surgery scheduled before the COVID-19 pandemic and decisions to halt elective surgeries.

“I actually got my surgery about a week and a half before everything shutdown (because of COVID-19) for good. I only missed a few days of regular school and then I got to finish out my year, which was good for me, but not for everyone else.”

Pecarich’s surgery was on her right hip at Gillette Children’s in Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

“I was really nervous, but I knew it couldn’t get any worse,” Pecarich said.

Pecarich was told it would take six months before she could return to the tennis courts. She was back on the court in five months.


“I worked at physical therapy three times a week to try and get that sooner so I actually got back to playing tennis after about five months. Right now, I’m about six-months post-operation.”

Pecarich isn’t 100% yet. Despite being a key component to the Brainerd tennis team’s 8-0 start. She said she’s still learning or dealing with slight limitations, but said her hip feels “a thousand times better” than before the surgery. At Big Stone Therapies, Hughes said a surgery and a recovery like this takes almost a year before the patient is back 100%.

“She was non-weight bearing until her bones were completely healed,” Hughes said. “The complications come for us on the rehab end are when you don’t walk on a leg for six weeks and they do a surgery on that hip all the muscles become atrophied. They don’t work right. It’s not just hip, it’s the hip, the glute, the quad muscle, hamstring and the calf because you haven’t been using any of those.

“It was a long process for her to get back. She worked like crazy. She may give us kudos, but I have to tell you, athletes don’t get better unless they work like an athlete while they're in rehab. They also need to think like an athlete and that’s how they get better.”

Pecarich said she had to learn how to walk again. She had to relearn how to tie her shoes and get into bed. She said at that point tennis wasn’t an issue. Just being OK was the goal.

“It was really difficult when I would do my little exercises or we would take one walk around the area. I was exhausted. You wonder, how did I go from being an athlete and being able to do all that to being tired out from just having to sit up and down?”

Hughes called it an emotional process, especially for a patient at that age. He did say the outcome has been fantastic.

“My guess is she’s maybe not 100% yet, but she’ll get there,” Hughes said. “Sometimes rehab on a big surgery like this takes a year to get back to where they were prior to the injury.


“Somedays, on a repair like this, it’s harder than competition. It takes that focus that we’re working on the right muscle groups. Zero to 10 scale, she worked through her sessions at a 7-10 amount. When she would leave, she was fatigued.”

It was the end of July when Pecarich first picked up her tennis racket again. She went and hit with Warriors assistant tennis coach Briana Rademacher. In her words, “it was rough.”

High school tennis practice started Aug. 17. For the first week, there were drills Pecarich opted out of, but by the second week, she was doing everything.

“The fear was there, but I just tried not to think about it,” Pecarich said. “When I go out there and I’m playing, I don’t even remember that anything was wrong with me to begin with.”

This season, Pecarich has switched from varsity and junior varsity, but continues to win matches.

“It’s inspiring to see what Chloe has done to be back on the court with her team competing her senior year after all she faced with that major, major hip surgery,” Brainerd head tennis coach Lisa Salo said. “We wanted her back in whatever capacity she could have been back because she is very important to our team. To have back at a level where she is competing is just fabulous. We’re so excited for her and our team needs her.”

Pecarich is happy to be with her teammates and is looking ahead to next year and hopefully playing college tennis.

Now she’s going to play as much tennis as she can before the weather turns cold. She also hopes to be a source of inspiration to a fellow teammate.


“One of my teammates is going through this right now and I’m just happy that she can see how I’m doing and it’s not the end of the world,” Pecarich said. “Before I got this done, I didn’t know anyone who had gotten this done. It’s not the most common thing and you just have to remember, it's going to suck a lot, but it will be so worth it in the end. You’ll be able to have your life back. You’ll be able to do the things you love again.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at .

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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