patient tucker playing footballIn sports, resilience is often the key to success. Tucker Lee, a talented athlete aspiring to play college football, encountered a major setback: a lateral meniscus tear. Tucker not only conquered his injury with determination and the support of his loved ones, but also earned a full academic and athletic scholarship to Arkansas Tech University, where he’ll hit the football field in Fall 2024.

Love of football

Football wasn’t merely a game for Tucker; it was a passion deeply rooted in him since childhood. Cammy, his mother, vividly remembers how Tucker appeared destined for football from an early age, his identity inseparable from the sport.

“Tucker was told he’d be a football player someday since he was 2 years old, because in many ways, he resembled one, just on a smaller scale,” said Cammy. “His identity has been shaped early on, with the understanding that football was his calling. It’s become a significant part of who he is.”

Top of Form

However, in 2022, Tucker faced a major setback when he sustained a knee injury unrelated to football during his sophomore year of high school. The incident took place while he was wrestling. He got stuck in a twisted position and didn’t realize he tore his meniscus at that moment. The next morning, Tucker struggled to walk due to the discomfort in his knee.

“I was in a lot of pain,” recalled Tucker. “I could not lift weights. In class, my teachers would have a yoga ball and I would just remember sitting in class on that just trying to keep my knee moving because if it stiffed up, I would not be able to lift very well. It was a struggle going up and down stairs. I just kind of powered through it for a little bit because I was used to the pain.”

“At first, we didn’t think it was serious,” said Cammy. “We wanted to give his knee time to heal on its own. We didn’t assume that he had a tear. But when it didn’t heal, we realized something was wrong. That’s when we consulted an orthopedic doctor to examine his knee.”

Following the injury, Tucker underwent his first surgery – a “trim surgery” on his meniscus. This procedure was meant to address the tear and facilitate a quick recovery. However, Tucker’s knee never fully healed, and he continued to experience discomfort and limitations in his mobility.

Nevertheless, he powered through his junior year of football with the injury.

The decision that changed everything

Undeterred by the setback, Tucker remained focused on his goal of playing college football. With the support of his family, Tucker sought a second opinion after not being 100 percent satisfied with his progress with his original surgeon. That’s when the Lee family researched providers and came across pediatric sports medicine care at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and Alfred Mansour, MD, a pediatric orthopedic and sports medicine surgeon affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. After ordering an MRI and reviewing the results, Dr. Mansour diagnosed a lateral meniscus tear that necessitated a more extensive surgical repair.

"When I found out I needed surgery, I felt completely deflated,” said Tucker. “But Dr. Mansour was incredible. From the moment I met him, he greeted me with a warm smile and genuine concern. He didn't sugarcoat anything; he was straightforward about what to expect and the uncertainties of recovery. What stood out to me most was how he took the time to address all my questions, never making me feel rushed. Dr. Mansour was transparent throughout, outlining the possibilities and risks involved. He said, 'I can't guarantee a full recovery, but I'll do everything in my power to get you back on the football field.' That level of honesty and commitment meant everything to me."

Tucker underwent a second knee surgery on February 17, 2023 at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center. This major repair required a more extensive recovery period, lasting up to eight to 12 weeks.

"We encountered a unique situation with Tucker, as not only did he have a lateral tear, but there were also loose fragments surrounding it," explained Dr. Mansour. "The tear extended in multiple directions, resulting in several pieces that moved around and pinched when he bent his knee. This limited his ability to squat and perform his football duties. During surgery, we used a specialized device inside the knee to carefully place sutures around the two primary fragments, effectively stitching them together to prevent further pinching and movement during physical activities."

Persevering through challenges

Tucker faced many challenges during physical therapy, but he kept going and slowly got stronger, more flexible and more agile.

“Physical therapy played a big role in my recovery,” said Tucker. “I focused on strengthening the muscles around my knee, including my hips, hamstrings and quads. It was a gradual process of building up strength and flexibility, working on mobility and eventually progressing to agility training. I worked with my therapist on exercises to regain flexibility and mobility, and then gradually transitioned to running, sprinting and making cuts – all of which I wasn’t able to do for a long time. It was challenging, but seeing my progress and feeling myself getting stronger with each session was incredibly rewarding.”

A triumphant outcome

patient tucker with family Tucker’s dedication to his rehabilitation regimen, combined with the expertise of his sports medicine team, ultimately led to his triumphant return to the football field. Not only did Tucker excel during his senior year of football, his hard work and perseverance paid off when he received a full-ride academic and athletic scholarship to Arkansas Tech University.

Reflecting on his journey, Tucker emphasizes the importance of faith, resilience and maintaining a positive mindset in the face of adversity. His story serves as an inspiration to other athletes facing similar challenges, demonstrating that with determination and support, anything is possible.

“What helped me get through this challenge was maintaining a positive mindset and surrounding myself with supportive people,” Tucker shares. “I refused to dwell on setbacks or pain. Instead, I focused on what I could control – my attitude and determination to overcome obstacles. I leaned on my faith in God, my family, friends and the medical team who believed in me every step of the way. Through this, I learned that adversity can make you stronger if you choose to embrace it and keep pushing forward.”

Tucker’s family is grateful to the entire care team at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital for restoring Tucker's hope and future.

“We are absolutely thrilled for Tucker, and we owe a tremendous gratitude to Dr. Mansour,” said Cammy. “Throughout this journey, we didn’t know the outcome of this, but we clung to hope. Seeing Tucker achieve what he fought so tirelessly for is so rewarding as a mother, especially considering the challenges he has overcome.”

Dr. Mansour commented, “Tucker’s case is a perfect example of how a determined family and child establish goals, stay focused on progress, overcome challenges, and work tirelessly during rehabilitation to return to sports after injury. It is truly fulfilling to be a part of their journey.”

Learn more about our pediatric orthopedics services at Children’s Memorial Hermann »

Contact Us

To contact Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, please fill out the form below.


Thank you for contacting Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. We have received your inquiry, and a team member will contact you soon.

If you need more immediate assistance, please call us at (713) 704-KIDS (5437).