Home HEALTH HEALTH CHECK Lousiana Powerlift Champion Overcame Medical Odds to Win Gold

Lousiana Powerlift Champion Overcame Medical Odds to Win Gold

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Dr. Rick Italiano now focuses on the National Championship

Setting state and personal lifting records while winning double gold medals at the 2007 Louisiana Senior Powerlifting State Championship is an impressive feat. For Dr. Rick Italiano, its nothing short of inspirational considering he did this after rupturing both quadriceps tendons that had left him in a wheelchair for months.

The next step on his journey will be the 2008 National Championships in San Francisco in June. He will compete in the deadlift event in the Heavyweight Division. He will try to improve on his 605 pounds deadlift record from this September, with an ultimate goal of 700 pounds.

“I have always believed that stumbling stone blocks in life can hold you back,” says Dr. Italiano. “It’s the positive attitude and drive to succeed that turns the blocks into stepping stones.”

In 2005, Dr. Italiano, a 58-year-old medical entomologist, was completing the squat in a competition when he crumpled to the floor under 735 pounds of weight that fell on him. It was at that point he tore both sides of the tendon that attaches the knee to the patella above the kneecap in both legs. He knew the injury was serious when he looked down and saw that his “left leg was facing Slidell and the right leg was facing Baton Rouge.”

He was rushed to East Jefferson General Hospital where orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Claude Williams, repaired both tendons by drilling holes in the kneecap and suturing the tendon back in place.

“This was quite an unusual injury,” says Dr. Williams. “It was a few months until the tendon was healthy enough to even straighten his legs and attempt to walk. You also worry that the tendon may become weaker after. I recommended to him to become a normal person and stop the power lifting.”

Dr. Italiano understood the doctor’s advice and recognized that another injury may do even more harm, but he wanted to prove that he could come all the way back from the injury and not only return to his previous form, but be even better. He used the opportunity in the wheelchair to strengthen his upper body and then rehabilitated his legs per doctor’s orders. He took small steps and was cautious in his approach.

“I never take anything for granted and I wanted a challenge,” said Dr. Italiano. “A lot of thought went into me trying this and I didn’t know what pain was until I went through my rehab. Much of my comeback is credited to the angel by my side, my ex-wife Donna, who remained by my side throughout the ordeal. I hope people look at me and see that if I can overcome this injury, they can overcome whatever it is they need to overcome in their lives.”

Dr. Williams remembers the day Dr. Italiano walked in his office and gave him the picture of him performing the winning deadlift. Dr. Williams says “it was against my advice and he is accepting high risk, but that’s his nature and he fits into the category of the athlete who is trying to push his body to the limit.”