Eric Peterson, Published August 18 2012
Area athletes recall the shock, pain involved in serious knee injuries
Spencer Flaten had shot a layup hundreds of times before, but this one was different.
“As I went up, I felt something pop in my knee,” said Flaten, who attended West Fargo High School. “It felt a lot different than just a twist in my knee. It felt like it was more serious than that.”
Minutes later, Flaten was on his cell phone talking with his dad.
“He told me ‘My knee just exploded.’ ” Neil Flaten recalled.
That was two springs ago. Spencer was barely into his freshman baseball season at Jamestown (N.D.) College. The Jimmies had just returned from a trip to Omaha, Neb., and had the day off to stretch and do some cardio.
Flaten, who played high school basketball for West Fargo, had decided to shoot some hoops with a few of his teammates.
“I haven’t done a layup since then I can say that,” Flaten said. “I’m sure I’ll end up doing it again, but not until my baseball career is over. That’s a sure thing.”
Katelyn Holland, another West Fargo graduate, was also on the basketball court when she suffered a similar injury.
Holland was in her freshman season with the Concordia women’s team. Last January, the Cobbers were playing a conference game in St. Peter, Minn., against Gustavus.
Holland quickly changed direction while trying to shake a defender near the left side of the lane. That’s when her knee buckled and she crumpled to the floor.
“I can remember hearing that pop on my knee and it was just the worst sound ever,” Holland said. “Right away it hurt. It hurt a lot. But I think I was more shocked than anything.”
Jon Holland, Katelyn’s father, saw the above scene unfold on his computer screen. Jon was watching the game on the internet from his West Fargo home.
“When she went down initially, I was just praying ankle. I was hoping it was an ankle,” he said. “When she rolled over and I saw the expression on her face on the computer screen, I knew it wasn’t good.”
Flaten also had a feeling it wasn’t a good thing the way his knee reacted.
When Flaten went up for that layup, he said it “felt like two things grinding together and it just let loose. I didn’t really have any pain and after I did it, my knee didn’t swell up.”
Even though there was little pain, Flaten could tell something wasn’t right. He felt “no support” in his leg at all, although he was able to walk. Flaten went in for an MRI on his knee the next day.
“A lot of emotions run, thinking like I might not ever play a game,” Flaten said. “I cried a lot.”
That split-second injury ended his freshman season at Jamestown College. He was one of two freshmen to make the varsity team that spring. It also spoiled Flaten’s plans to return to West Fargo and play for the American Legion baseball team that next summer.
Flaten was expected to be one of the leaders on a talented Legion team. Neil could see how the injury tormented his son.
“Everything we thought he was going to be doing came to an end and mentally, that’s tough,” Neil said. “We drove by the West Fargo baseball field and you could tell it was just eating him apart that he figured he would never play there again.”
Moments after Holland suffered her injury, an athletic trainer was there to test the knee. The initial prognosis wasn’t good.
“He could feel something wasn’t right,” Holland said. “He could feel that it wasn’t connected.”
Holland sat on the bleachers until the game ended. As he watched on his computer screen, Jon sent a text to his daughter trying to get more details.
Katelyn called her father shortly after the game.
“The trainer down there was pretty sure at that time,” Jon said. “We were all pretty sad. There were a lot of tears that night because she worked so hard to get to that point.”
The next day she had an MRI done on the knee that confirmed a torn ACL.
“It was very emotional right away when I found out, and it was hard to talk to the coaches and stuff like that,” Holland said.
Flaten played baseball and basketball at West Fargo High School. He was also on the football team until his sophomore year. So he had jumped, changed direction and pushed off his knee countless times before.
This time was different.
“It’s a freak accident, that’s all I can really say,” Flaten said. “Something I’ve done a million times in my life, and that one time I happened to plant the wrong way.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.
Peterson’s blog can be found