Bryan Jurynec, Orthopedic Surgery

You would think that after two major knee surgeries barely a year apart and a delicate surgery to repair a badly injured left thumb that 26-year-old Bryan Jurynec would think about quitting hockey.

Are you kidding?

He plays hockey , no sport for the weak of heart. And he has Canadian blood coursing through his arteries. Quit? No way.

"You get all beat up," Jurynec said. "It's a great time.

"And I get paid for it."

A native of Orland Park, Ill., Jurynec has played hockey for as long as he can remember. His dad, a Canadian, played hockey, as did his brother, now a genetic researcher.

Bryan, who has both Canadian and American citizenship, has a bachelor's degree in finance and economics from American International College in Springfield, Mass., where he played hockey. He has played in minor league hockey since graduation and came to the Kalamazoo Wings in 2008.

When he was a senior in college, Bryan injured his left knee while playing hockey and was diagnosed with an ACL tear and meniscus tear.

The ACL is one of the main stabilizing ligaments of the knee, and menisci are two "C" shaped pieces of cartilage in each knee joint that act as shock absorbers between the thighbone and shinbone.

That first injury came during his 35th and, as it turned out, final game in college.

The ACL reconstruction and meniscus repair surgery was done in Worcester, Massachusetts, and following an uneventful recovery, Bryan returned to hockey, moving to Kalamazoo to join the K-Wings in 2008.

Fifty-five games into the K-Wings 2008-09 season he re-injured his left knee during a practice session. "I was just skating in practice and the knee popped," he said.

He went to the Borgess Emergency and Trauma Center initially and then followed up with Dr. Christopher Uggen, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist with the Kalamazoo Orthopaedic Clinic. Dr. Uggen diagnosed a re-tear of his meniscus and attained an urgent MRI which confirmed a locked “bucket handle” meniscus tear. An outpatient knee arthroscopy was scheduled for the following day.

Bryan was admitted at 8 a.m. and walked out of the hospital without crutches at 1 p.m. the same day. He describes the surgery as "instant gratification."

Dr. Uggen said that the meniscus in Bryan's left knee was torn and a portion of the tear was blocking the motion of his knee. Using a tiny video camera and only two small incisions, each less than one centimeter in length, Dr. Uggen snipped off only the portion of torn meniscus blocking the motion of the knee and preserved the remainder of the meniscus which was uninjured.

"He's a great doctor," Bryan said of Dr. Uggen. "I'd recommend him to anyone.

"He tells you straight out what's wrong and what he will do. Some doctors try to cushion the news, but not Dr. Uggen and I like that."

Bryan also likes the fact that Dr. Uggen, when training on the West Coast, had treated NBA star Koby Bryant as well as some notable professional hockey players for the Los Angeles Kings.

"I'll admit I was a little scared about the surgery because of the first one, but Dr. Uggen was very comforting and very confident," Bryan said.

He said that the K-Wings provide excellent health care benefits and that the players, who live in apartments provided by the team, "are pretty well taken care of."

The coach and owners, he said, understand that hockey players will be injured on occasion and they are very open about allowing time to recover.

Bryan continued therapy for several months after surgery and was back on his skates as the 2009-10 season got underway.

"The injuries haven't changed the way I play," he said. "I still play with an edge.”

"But I do understand that I have to take care of my body and stay in shape. Most nights after games, when the rest of the guys head out, I stay in the training room to do therapy and exercises for my knee to keep in the best possible condition.

"It's a lot of work but I'll take that any time over not playing hockey."