Back to Volleyball
"The first time I met the surgeon I felt a connection with him. He’s super cool and because I trusted him I wasn’t nervous at all."
Procedure: Fractured Left Index Finger Repair: December 2017
“Coach, I think I broke my finger.”
UCI senior athlete Tucker Pikula, 23, was warming up at volleyball practice
in a friendly Saturday morning basketball game when a freak accident shattered
his plans. His teammate’s pass hit him with so much force that his
finger fractured into pieces.
“At first, thinking I might have just dislocated it, I tried to shake
it off. I’ve played basketball all my life, and volleyball for the
last nine years, and never had a problem. I kept playing for another five
minutes but my stomach became very queasy and the pain got worse.”
At a nearby urgent care center, Tucker’s X-rays confirmed his finger
was fractured. He told his coach, who informed the school’s athletic
trainer. The trainer contacted the UCI team physician and Hoag Orthopedic
Institute orthopedist, who contacted a trusted
hand specialist. The Hoag Orthopedic Institute specialist promptly met with Tucker, then
fast-tracked Tucker’s intricate
finger surgery. The procedure was scheduled for immediately after his mid-term exams.
“The first time I met the surgeon I felt a connection with him. He’s
super cool and because I trusted him I wasn’t nervous at all. After
surgery, he told me that the fragments were extensive. What was supposed
to be a 45-minute procedure took twice as long, but it was a good surgery.”
Tucker was devastated by the blow to his final college volleyball season
that had just begun. He wondered if he would ever be able to play volleyball
again. Casted from his fingertip to mid arm, he leaned on strong family,
team, medical and therapeutic support systems. Tucker focused on school
and plans to travel to Europe and around the US after he graduated.
“During a therapy session, I saw a kid about 18 years old come in
who was missing all of his fingers, except for his thumb. That was a turning
point for me,” says Tucker. “It changed how I felt about my
injury; I still have five fingers.”
Just six weeks after surgery with his index and middle fingers taped together,
Tucker was back on the floor, starting for UCI’s volleyball team,
then ranked third in the nation. Instead of a hitter he went in as a libero,
a defensive position in which he can use his forearms rather than his hands.
Seven weeks later, finger still swollen and not bending due to significant
scar tissue, Tucker went back to see his
Hoag Orthopedic Institute surgeon. He left feeling encouraged. Tucker reports, “I just found out he
can remove the scar tissue and is confident I will get back my full range