Austin tennis prodigy beating scoliosis in straight sets

Cade Pressnell had surgery to help with his scoliosis.
Cade Pressnell had surgery to help with his scoliosis.

DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - Watching 14-year-old Cade Pressnell hit a tennis ball, it's hard to believe that he recently had major health concerns.

Scoliosis was slowly curving his spine.

"Well, when we first found out that he was diagnosed with it, we were hopeful that he would just have it treated with some exercises, some stretching and that it would maybe not progress further, but...," said Chris Pressnell, Cade's dad.

That was not to be. Cade wore a mesh brace. He still played, but his condition got worse according to his great uncle, a tennis standout.

"He actually pulled me aside and said, 'Chris, I think there's something wrong with him,'" added Chris.

Cade said it was a physically draining time.

"I could stay out like an hour and a half or two and then I could only stay out for like 45 minutes," he said. "That was a big portion of my life, you know. I probably played 10 to 12 hours a week, you know, so that was really hard on me."

His dad said it got really bad.

"He had some shortness of breath and he said, 'Dad I just can't breathe,'" Chris said.

Tests showed he had restrictive lung disease because his ribs shifted and were putting pressure on his lungs. Something had to be done.

Traditional surgery ran the length of the spine, cutting through muscle and soft tissue to connect the spine to a rod. Recovery time was up to a year.

So the Pressnells started digging. They found a new procedure but only one surgeon willing to operate on a child, and he was in New York.

The surgery involved three incisions.  Chris explained although the surgery lasted for eight hours, it involved much less blood loss and had a shorter recovery time.

"He did not cut through the muscle; he moved it. He inserted the rods that way and he put the screws in and then he sewed Cade up," said Chris.

Two and a half weeks later, Cade was back, participating in a sport shared by his dad and great uncle. In fact, his coach said by looking at him today, you couldn't tell he's ever had surgery.

"He looks a little bit stronger now. He did tell me he did grow about two inches," said Zach Cameron.

Obviously, Cade is happy with the result.

"Yeah, I was so glad we could get the operation where I could get back like within a month or two," he said.

His coach is very proud of him.

"He really has a passion for the game. He really loves the sport," said Cameron. "It's exciting to coach a player like that."

Tennis: A love shared by generations that will endure for some time.

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