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Q2 AOW: Max recovery; how West's Kimball mends meniscus, ACL

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Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 27, 2022

BILLINGS - A lot of patients dread physical therapy. And why not, dealing with the pain and agony of patience itself while grinding to rehab injuries.

But that wasn't the case for Q2's Athlete of the Week.

"He just really had me focus on picking up my feet instead of sliding them," Max Kimball told MTN Sports while demonstrating some of the physical therapy workouts Bill Dolan of Billings Clinic Orthopedics put him though to rebuild a torn-up knee.

The injury actually happened early in the 2021 season while playing football for West on the new Gallatin High School turf when Kimball tried to cut and make a tackle.

"And I planted to go cut at him, and my knee twisted but my foot didn't rip up the grass like it would on (actual) grass. It was like a ring of pain around my knee," Kimball recalled.

He dropped to the ground without any contact.

"I saw him injure his knee and was there with him through the entire process." said West's strength and conditioning coach Mark Johnston, who also works through Billings Clinic.

Kimball knew instantly his injury was unlike any other he'd suffered.

"(I) went to the sidelines and they had an orthopedic guy there and immediately he said, oh, it's torn."

Kimball said knee surgery within a week of the accident revealed more than an ACL tear.

They repaired my meniscus and then took (some of my) hamstring tendon and used that for my ACL," he said.

As for agonizing through physical therapy and waiting patiently on recovery, Kimball says his couldn't have gone any smoother and was actually fun working with Dolan.

"We just would talk football, talk about everything going on with our team, and he made it seem like it wasn't rehab," Kimball said.

"He was always steadfast in his purpose, he knew what he wanted to do," said Dolan. "It made it really easy for me because you've got a kid who you didn't really have to excite him about rehab, he was coming in here ready to go from the start."

Johnston, monitoring Kimball's progress in West's weight room, agreed. "Every step of the way (Max was) wanting to know what was going on, what he needed to do next."

The grit paid off in spades. Kimble had a terrific senior season for West and shied away from multiple NAIA offers to accept a preferred walk-on shot at Montana State where his dad and uncles played.

"(Playing for the ) Bobcats has always been my No. 1 goal."

This off-season, Kimball is strengthening his knee on another field.

"I got involved in Lacrosse back in fourth grade," he told MTN Sports on the turf at Amend Park.

It's a sport he's still playing, only now for West High's club team. He says Lacrosse is a little lighter on the knee and, coincidentally, its workouts revealed some unexpected relief.

"It actually kind of helped me because I went to a practice and forgot my knee brace," he admitted with a smile. "From there on out I was kind of like, oh, well, if there's no issues without it... so, it kind of gave me the confidence to get back into it and I'm really excited to go into football without one."

Kimball's biggest issue may have been mixing business with pleasure as he rehabbed to play for the Bobcats with Dolan — who played for the Griz.

"You know, you have to put that stuff aside," Dolan confessed with a laugh. "Medical stuff is way more important for me."