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  • Ragan Laurin

Meet Our Gymnast of the Month, Ragan Laurin

Hi, I am Ragan Laurin and I am a level 9 gymnast at Daggett Gymnastics. Over the years, I’ve put in a lot of hard work and determination. Sadly, injuries have not allowed me to perform to my fullest potential. Many gymnasts get the occasional sprained or rolled ankles, bruised or broken bones, and many jammed fingers and concussions. I have experienced all of these along with a broken elbow, three elbow surgeries and long recovery times. When I wasn’t dealing with the elbow issue I had a broken foot, a dislocated finger, and a dislocated toe.However, this has not stopped me. I remain determined to compete in the sport I love!

My first injury was a broken elbow back in level 5 when I was in second grade. I lost my balance

while releasing from the bars and put my arm back. Three years went by and the same elbow began to get extremely sore when I was in fifth grade. I was shocked after I received a confirmed diagnosis of OCD (Osteochondritis dissecans), which means too much force is being put on the elbow which causes a lesion to form in the cartilage. This eventually leads to the inability of blood to flow to the bone, which means in the big picture that the bone is dying. It was an awful diagnosis to hear, because it meant time off my elbow, surgery to debride the lesion to form new blood flow, and a three month recovery. I went back to practice right after my surgery; and after I was fully cleared I competed one meet. However, the pain returned and once again I was told to stay off of it. I went back to the gym and prepared for my level 8 season with as many one handed and no handed skills as possible.

Although I suffered a few more injuries over the next year, I finally had a little break and was a level 9 for two years. At the end of the second year as I was in the eighth grade, my elbow soreness returned. I continued to push on. I didn’t want to mention anything because in my heart I recognized this pain and didn’t want to miss out on the chance to compete. So after competing the Massachusetts state meet in pain, I had to end the competition season and miss out on regionals. I found out I needed another more complex elbow arthroscopy with a six month recovery timeline. I was still determined and never missed a practice. If I was going to come back, I needed to keep my strength, flexibility and discipline.

After getting cleared from this surgery and soon after returning to doing all my skills, my elbow pain once again returned in freshman year. I was beyond sad because I knew I now needed the big surgery, known as the OATS ( osteochondral autograft transplant system) procedure. It wasn’t the surgery that made me sad, but the knowledge that once again I wouldn’t be able to fully practice. My surgeon at Boston Children’s told me he was going to remove the lesion and drill a hole in my elbow. He would then open my knee up to take the size of the hole in my elbow and create a plug using my knee bone to create a new piece of bone to fix the cause of the injury. It was a four hour surgery with an overnight stay, and a 6 months of recovery. While they were operating on my elbow, they found arthritic changes and abnormal elbow anatomy; a flat radius bone, instead of a rounded radius bone. This means when my elbow moves, it does not move smoothly like a normal elbow. Still determined, I continued doing gymnastics knowing my baseline abnormality. I practiced one armed floor and no armed front tumbling and beam skills, but I gave the competition season a break as directed by my coaches and surgeon.

After the long recovery, in April 2019, I was cleared to do gymnastics with orders to reintroduce gymnastics skills at a very slow pace. I did not want to overdo it and stayed compliant the entire time in order to have the best chance of a full recovery. Right after school started, my elbow pain returned. I really did not think it was anything serious because I was told that my elbow healed better than a normal healthy elbow, and if OCD occurred it would be a new lesion and unrelated to the original surgery. My year follow up from my OATS surgery was upcoming, so I continued doing everything even though my elbow was sore. The day came and I went in there with a smile and a positive attitude as I have been taught to do over the years because I refuse to accept otherwise. After I told my surgeon about the “discomfort”, he brought up the new MRI, and noticed a new lesion starting to form. The good news was that it was caught early, but the bad news is that it is most likely due to my flat radius bone. Something that can’t be fixed. I had received the news I’d hope I would never hear. My Doctor recommend never returning to gymnastics. I will never forget the overwhelming rush of emotions and feelings of hopelessness.

A piece of me was dying and no one could help. I couldn’t even approach the topic without tears. Many people choose to quit, but I wasn’t ready to quit. I was finally ready to have a great level 9 year. My love for gymnastics is indescribable. Gymnastics is why I wake up every day. It’s a piece of me and my passion. I have patiently adapted and accepted all my injuries as I am able to keep things in perspective once the initial sadness is digested. Gymnastics has built me as a person and my teammates and coaches are my family. They accept me for who I am and they love me and support me. After 12 years of gymnastics I felt defeated and didn’t know how to conquer this latest setback, but I still was going to try.

After two days, I was finally ready to discuss the diagnosis with my coaches. I didn’t know what was going to happen at that meeting. Thankfully, my coaches have been great and I seriously don’t know what I would do without them. They told me they were very sorry and they completely felt for me, but the meeting was not meant to make me cry. They offered me an alternative so I could continue competing. I am now going to compete as a level 9 specialist, doing a one armed floor routine and a no armed beam routine. Sadly, I have to give up bars and vault. My upcoming floor routine for the season is going to be a one armed round off into a double back, front full twist to a punch front, and a one armed round off full and a half punch front pike. For beam, I am competing a kick front to a connected back tuck as my flight, a front full dismount, back tuck, and the dance series that is required. Per the encouragement by my coaches, I’ve cut back my hours at the gym and I may even try other high school sports. My coaches have given me back so much, and I am forever grateful.

I have learned that when life throws you obstacles, don’t surrender but adapt. Make the best out of a bad situation. My advice to all who may battle injuries is that if you are passionate about the sport, talk with your coaches because anything is possible. I thought I would have to give up this amazing sport, but I am lucky that I can still continue. I may not be able to compete bars or vault, but my energy will be poured into the two events I am able to do. Gymnastics has taught me with pure determination and hard work, I will be able to work through anything. Keep doing what you love, adapt to change and never give up.

Do you know a gymnast with a special story? Has your gymnast overcome an obstacle, reached a goal, or provided support to a teammate? We'd love to hear about it and celebrate your son or daughter! Any gymnast chosen will receive a free gift from the Mamas at Gymnastics We will announce our December Gymnast of the Month on December 5th so submit your nomination today! CLICK HERE To SUBMIT

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