Dr. Joseph Lifrak Helps Injured Friars Basketball Player Return to the Court

Grace Efosa was a freshman guard for the Providence College women’s basketball team when she heard a pop in her knee while going for a layup in a March 2021 tournament game.

“I was in immense pain,” she said. “But God bless Providence College for connecting me with Dr. Lifrak.”

Dr. Joseph Lifrak, who practices at Southcoast Health, also serves as an orthopedic surgeon for the Providence College Friars athletic program. He diagnosed Grace with injuries to the medial collateral ligament (MCL), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the meniscus.

The MCL and ACL help keep the knee stable by connecting the bottom of the thighbone to the top of the shin bone. The MCL is on the interior side of the knee and the ACL crosses the center. The meniscus is cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between the shinbone and the thighbone.

“You have four ligaments in your knee and Grace had injured two of them,” Dr. Lifrak said. “It made her situation a little more complicated.”

Grace was frightened, but Dr. Lifrak soon made her feel comfortable and confident. “He was warm-hearted,” she said. “He told me he would take good care of me.”

Her confidence grew when Dr. Lifrak, who played basketball in high school, challenged Grace to a free throw contest when she recovered. “I wasn’t going to let him beat me at that,” Grace said. “I had many goals coming back to basketball. Thanks to Dr. Lifrak’s challenge, now I had another one.”

Dr. Lifrak initially prescribed Grace six weeks of rest to allow the MCL injury to heal, but the ACL tear required surgical repair if she wanted to continue playing, he said. In April, he performed a minimally invasive arthroscopic procedure that involved creating a new ligament with tissue from existing ligaments in her knee

Recovery took nine months, but Grace started her rehab exercises as soon as she returned to her dorm room. Dr. Lifrak monitored her progress as she rehabilitated with a Friars athletic trainer.

“When you have surgery, you can’t do the fundamentals like walking or jumping,” she said. “With my trainer, I had to relearn those steps. It puts doubt in your head. You never know how you’ll come back. There are a lot of ups and downs.”

By the sixth month, however, Grace was starting to run and jump. And by January 2022, she was back on the court. She also took up Dr. Lifrak on his free throw challenge, and although he beat her by one basket, Grace went on to lead her team in scoring last season during Big East Conference regular-season play.

Now a senior at Providence, she is currently in her final season as a Friar. Grace continues to visit Dr. Lifrak about once a month at the weekly clinics he holds for athletes.

“What I went through had a lot of lessons,” Grace said. “I learned about myself, my body, and how I want to go about the season. I thank Dr. Lifrak and the team at Southcoast Health for getting me back on the court and better than ever.”

To learn more about Southcoast Health Orthopedic services visit Orthopedic Treatments MA & RI | Southcoast Health.