LaForce celebrating life’s greatest joys

by Hannah Robison

One of the worst fears of an active athlete is the experience of tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, better known as the ACL. Whether it requires therapy or surgery, this event can cause pain and debilitation. For Unity Health Ambassador Matt LaForce, not only has he suffered one torn ACL, he has endured two.

LaForce, born and raised in Searcy, tore his left ACL while playing in a men’s soccer league. Later, LaForce again felt the familiar pain as he tore his right knee, but he contemplated other forms of treatment before undergoing another operation.

While coaching his son’s soccer team and warming up, he stepped backward into a hole and immediately felt a twist, further damaging the already torn ACL. At this point LaForce considered a consultation with a fellow parent, athlete and friend, orthopaedic surgeon Justin Franz, M.D.

“We had our consultation and everything was right, before my surgery,” he said. “He’s amazing, and we immediately clicked. We knew each other, so we were able to talk on the same level. We both had kids the same ages, we were athletic and active, and he gave me a really good comfort level. I felt like he took a great amount of time to help me feel comfortable with the process, and he was open to my preferences.”

LaForce quickly regained his strength and mobility shortly after his surgery, in which he received tendons from a donor graft. “It went better than I imagined and was the best experience I’ve had in a surgery situation ever,” he said. “Dr. Franz and his nurse, Angie, were always involved in my recovery, and I felt that they truly cared that I got better.”

More than anything, LaForce is grateful to have his full range of motion back in order to coach his kids and their teams in a number of sports. He now has no difficulties participating with them and helping them to prepare their minds and bodies for practices and games.

“There are absolutely no holds on what I can do,” LaForce said. One of the driving factors in his decision to have the knee operated on was for a family ski trip planned in January. His wife, Fran, and sons Cannon (9) and Colt (5) were able to hit the slopes with him fearlessly. “I could do everything I could have done had I not torn my ACL. I know that it was done right, and I am confident in the work that was done on my knee, if something ever happens again I am not scared to go back and have it fixed because I know how good of a job Dr. Franz would do.”

LaForce’s sons and their teams are what bring some of the greatest joy to his life. “By far, my favorite thing to do is coach soccer and my boys,” LaForce said. “When I get out there with them, I am able to play, demonstrate and be active with them, rather than be on the sidelines. Before then, I had to take it easy, I couldn’t be a part of practice and now I can. That is what most of my free time is spent doing.”

He loves watching them and being a part of them trying new things, LaForce said. “It teaches them how to be a good person and allows me to be influential in their development, athletically, mentally and spiritually.”

LaForce said his biggest fear through all of this was having to be a spectator on the sidelines, versus being a part of the action and getting involved. Though the process may have been painful, he knows it was a good decision with a great outcome. He even says he would have surgery again tomorrow. “It was a recipe for success. It was all perfect. It gives me the confidence to go out and do whatever I want to do. I live with no worries.”