As an infant, Ben Freedman’s head leaned a little bit to one side. As he grew, the curve in his back became more noticeable, his shoulders were uneven and his gait a bit off. But the issues with his spine didn’t keep him from a full range of activities including running, lots and lots of running.

Freedman’s parents Lauren and Michael took Ben to David Roberts, MD, pediatric orthopaedic surgeon with Endeavor Health when he was just 4 years old.

Diagnosed with congenital scoliosis of the cervical spine, also known as Klippel-Feil syndrome, Freedman later developed severe scoliosis in other parts of his thoracic and lumbar spine. Dr. Roberts followed Freedman throughout his childhood and worked to limit and manage the condition with a back brace.

As the scoliosis became more severe, Freedman continued to run, joining the track and cross-country teams at Deerfield High School.

“You could tell he was compensating, leaning to one side, but it never stopped him,” said Michael.

At age 14, the curvature had gotten much worse and Dr. Roberts recommended spinal fusion surgery to correct the scoliosis curve.

The Freedmans met with several other surgeons and together agreed that Dr. Roberts was the right choice to perform the complex procedure. He explained the procedure thoroughly and walked the family through the process and the best possible timing to optimize his ability to return to competitive running.

“Dr. Roberts is awesome, he has the compassion and confidence that made us feel calm,” said Lauren. “It was a big decision and the three of us made it together.”

Freedman had surgery in July 2022 and was back to easy running by September. “They told him he could run again in six months, and I think he heard three months,” joked Lauren.

Freedman’s goal was to be able to race once at the end of the cross-country season. Running felt smoother almost immediately and his once off-kilter gait was now completely normal. His times began dropping and last spring Freedman ran a 4:55 mile, breaking the 5-minute milestone. He hit a new personal record in the fall with a 4:42 mile.

At Freedman’s one-year checkup he had run more than 1,000 miles, logging consistently faster times than before his surgery.

“Ben is a very motivated and strong young man,” said Dr. Roberts. “Running is very important to him and it’s gratifying to see his progress and exceptional outcome.” He is a great example of the excellent functional outcomes we see in adolescents undergoing scoliosis surgery, added Dr. Roberts.

After recovering from his spinal fusion, Freedman has returned to most normal sports activities without limitations. He plays football and basketball with his friends and has even been skiing since his surgery.

His parents and Dr. Roberts are quick to praise Freedman’s discipline and work to get himself in the best shape before his surgery, as well as his efforts to get back in the game following the procedure.

“I was totally confident that I would recover well, I had full confidence in Dr. Roberts,” said Freedman. “My form is much better now and my mentality is to do whatever it takes to keep getting better.”