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Resurgens Helps Retired Tennis Pro Keep Playing for More Than 50 Years

Joe Becknell’s love of tennis took hold more than half a century ago when a knee injury derailed his baseball career in college at Mercer University and the former pitcher took up tennis as an alternative.

That love eventually manifested itself into a career as a Tennis-Pro.  Becknell retired in 2007 as Tennis Director of the Carl E. Sanders Family YMCA in Buckhead.  Tennis remains very much a part of his life as he continues to work part-time and to play recreationally during his free time in retirement.

 “I wouldn’t be happy doing nothing,” Becknell said of retirement. “… I try to be active.”

A lifetime of constant high impact activity plus a lengthy playing career would take a toll on almost anyone’s knees, and Becknell had a history of four knee operations to complicate things later in life.

Starting in 1980, Dr. John C. Garrett, who later founded Resurgens and served as the Atlanta Falcons’ team doctor from 1981 to 1993, performed three surgeries on Becknell over a five-year period. Over the past three or four years, the pain in Becknell’s knees, from age and arthritis, became increasingly intense. Becknell had tried injections and pills and other kinds of “magic” for a solution to the pain but he could not find one.

“It just got to where the knees were very painful walking and trying to play and teach tennis,” Becknell said. 

While he continued to search for a remedy, Becknell ran into Garrett at the YMCA in 2014 and sought Garrett’s informal counsel. Garrett recommended Dr. Mark W. Hanna, whose specialties include reconstructive knee surgery.

The pain in Becknell’s right knee was more severe so Dr. Hanna recommended and performed a total knee replacement on Sept. 2 at Resurgens’ St. Joseph’s facility.   Becknell underwent a total knee arthroplasty on his left knee later in 2014. 

Becknell appreciates how much Dr. Hanna cares about his patients on a personal level.

“I can’t say enough accolades for Dr. Hanna,” Becknell said. “Not only the obvious medical skill and expertise he has but just as a person — a caring aspect to him comes across.”

Becknell likened his rehab to the cold and miserable weather that metro Atlanta has endured during February: Just going through the pain to know there’s something better down the road.

“It’s fantastic,” he said of his knees. “I tell everybody I’m still working on it and I get around fine. No pain. I said absence of pain is way ahead of what’s in second place — way ahead. I feel great. I’m just real fortunate to have (Dr. Hanna) as my doctor and the good therapy afterwards because they’re a team.”

Becknell said he realizes he might have gone back on the court sooner than what his doctors might have preferred.

“I prefer people stick to doubles,” Hanna said, “but I am sure I have a few that play singles. Usually, after six weeks I let them start hitting some balls, if they are interested, and they are usually able to play by three months.”

One month after the first surgery he returned to work part-time — just feeding balls to players to hit during classes, without moving much at all. He said he did the same for the other knee. As of late February, he said he had not done any hard running, as he was waiting for better weather. Nonetheless, he said he has good maneuverability and will do short spurts of jogging on the court.

Starting the day after each of Becknell’s operations, physical therapists came to his home daily for three weeks. Becknell called Garrett shortly before the surgery and Garrett instructed him to strengthen in his legs in preparation for the rehab. Becknell followed through on those instructions. 

“I told Dr. Hanna, ‘You did your job, the rest is up to me’ and he did — he did a fantastic job,” Becknell said. “The therapy is really the lifeline of the rehab.”

Dr. Mark W. Hanna practices at Resurgens’ St. Joseph’s office.  His areas of expertise include hip and knee replacement. He completed his medical degree at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and his residency at Emory University in Atlanta. He completed a fellowship in Total Joint Replacement and Biologic Reconstruction at Harvard University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Hanna is board certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.


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