Glen Sather Clinic credited for getting 12-year-old gymnast back to competing (and winning)

    After her injury, Dominic Johnston was able to get back to the sport she loves with the help of U of A therapist

    By Jon Pullin on May 30, 2019

    Dominic Johnston knows what it means to keep her head up through adversity.

    The cheerful 12-year-old has been involved in gymnastics since the age of three and competing nationally since the age of nine.

    But in 2017, she had a setback. During a national gymnastics camp, Dominic started having pain in her elbow—something she had never experienced before.

    “She has big goals,” says her mother, Nicola Johnston. “Dominic is training in hopes of going to the Canadian National Championships next year and to eventually be a High Performance athlete. So when she started experiencing this pain, we got a bit worried.”

    Johnston took her to their family doctor where they advised that Dominic’s pain might be the result of a fracture. They put her in a cast for two weeks and X-rayed it again, but weren’t able to find a break. The doctor referred her for physiotherapy treatment, which seemed to help for awhile, but the pain returned.

    “It wasn’t one specific moment where you knew you did something. It was just pain out of nowhere that really started hurting,” says Dominic.

    That’s when she was referred to the University of Alberta’s Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic where she was assessed by sports medicine physician Seana Minnett.

    “It was really hard on me to not be able to train. You do everything with your arms,” remembers Dominic. “So I was really hoping we could figure something out.”

    Minnett requested an MRI and suspected that she was experiencing elbow apophysitis, more commonly referred to as Little Leaguer’s Elbow. Dominic began therapy with Declan Norris, one of the clinic’s sports physiotherapists.

    An MRI later comfirmed Minnett’s diagnosis

    “We knew this injury would be tricky to manage while training since it would not fully heal until she was finished growing,” says Johnston.


    Glen Sather Clinic's Declan Norris provides Dominic with a
    physio plan and education to make sure she stays in tip-top
    shape for competing.

    Norris put her on a special sports performance plan which included treatment and educating Dominic on managing her injury.

    “Seeing the physio helped me understand it and how to deal with it, when to push through pain and when not to,” says Dominic.

    Thanks to the care of Minnett and Norris, Dominic has started competing again, practicing full bar routines. Her most recent competition was at the 2019 Artistic & Acrobatic Provincial Championships in Edmonton where she won gold in the beam competition and silver in the all-around competition.

    “It feels so good to finally be back. I’m so happy to be able to do the sport I love.”

    And Johnston is just as happy to have her daughter back competing.

    “The team at Glen Sather Clinic supported Dominic and enabled her to continue with a sport she loves. They have been so influential in her return to gymnastics that she now wants to be a physiotherapist when she grows up. As the parent of an athlete, I am very appreciative of the care my daughter received. We would love to give hope to other young athletes out there facing challenges returning to their sport.”

    The Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic serves the needs of active individuals through patient care, education and research. It is a social enterprise whose main purpose is for the public good. Profits from the clinic are reinvested to support the patients through community services, research and training future health-care professionals.