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Coughlin leaves surgery in incredibly high spirits

Reigning U.S. pairs champ receiving exemplary medical care, expects to come back even stronger

Caydee Denney and John Coughlin intend to smile on podiums again soon.
Caydee Denney and John Coughlin intend to smile on podiums again soon. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(12/05/2012) - Heading home to Colorado Springs a day after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, John Coughlin is in good spirits.

"I'm doing well -- as well as can be expected," the 27-year-old skater said. "I was on the stationary bike not two hours after completing the procedure and I went on it again this morning. Now, I'm on the way to the OTC (Olympic Training Center) for my first PT session there and to get the PT schedule set for the week."

Coughlin is staying upbeat about the injury that has cost him and his partner, Caydee Denney, the chance to defend their U.S. pairs title at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha, Neb., next month.

After all, all he and Denney can do now is look ahead.

"Caydee and I are proud to be the U.S. champions, and our hearts want to be in Omaha, but we recognize we have other goals and decided to do the right thing and address [the injury] now so I can recover and have a full training season for the [2014] Olympics," he said.

Denney and Coughlin, who teamed up in May 2011, enjoyed a successful fall season, winning bronze medals at Skate America and Rostelecom Cup to be named first alternates to the Grand Prix Final.

Coughlin showed no apparent signs of injury on the ice, but as he explained, the injury had developed over many months.

"There wasn't an actual moment when I injured myself; it's a wear-and-tear type injury, an implosion in my hip joint impinging on the hip socket," he said. "Around the Thanksgiving holiday, it was bothering me more than the everyday aches and pains of an athlete."

Coughlin consulted medical staff at the OTC, who suggested an MRI that revealed the extent of the injury. From there, he was referred to Dr. Marc Philippon at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo.

"We are lucky the USFS has the support of the OTC and Dr. [Robert] Kruse, and [Dr. Kruse] was able to refer me to Dr. Philippon," Coughlin said. "Dr. Philippon has such a good relationship with the sports medicine team at the OTC, I am confident this is the best possible place I could be getting treatment."

"It happened very fast, but I'm just thankful we can take care of it right away," said Dalilah Sappenfield, who coaches Denney and Coughlin at Colorado Springs' World Arena. "Dr. Kruse was so helpful, he got us to Dr. Philippon immediately, and the next day after the appointment John had the surgery."

Dr. Philippon, who also numbered Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski among his patients, is a renowned orthopedic surgeon recognized worldwide for his pioneering work in hip arthroscopy. A leading consultant for the NHL, NFL, NBA and MLB professional teams, he has treated scores of athletes, including golfer Greg Norman, NHL center Mike Comrie and Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice.

In 2009, Dr. Philippon repaired Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez's torn labrum. (A-Rod is now scheduled for a second surgery to his right hip, which will take place in New York so rehab can be conducted closer to home.)

"If he's good enough for the Yankees, he's good enough for me," Coughlin, a Kansas City sports fan, said.

While Coughlin hopes and expects the best, no timetable has been set for his return to the ice.

"Dalilah walked in this morning to check me out [of the medical center] and go down to the physical therapy center, and they told her I've been a rock star so far and pushing through this as well as anyone they've seen," he said.

"I hope being in optimal condition prior to the injury means I can get better quickly. Dr. Philippon assured me most people come back stronger than they were originally. I'm looking forward to what 100 percent power will feel like for me."

"Everyone is positive John is going to come out of this much stronger," Sappenfield said.