A competitive cheerleader since the age of 4, Westlake High senior Courteney Belmonte has lived her life tumbling, twisting and flying through the air.
That passion was nearly shattered when she was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 14. The condition threatened Courteney’s physical well-being and her way of life.
Thanks to medical intervention by Dr. Ryan Goodwin, Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic, Courteney made a comeback that is the equal of an NFL star.
Today, at the age of 17, Courteney cheers for the varsity football and basketball teams at Westlake High.
Her message to other student-athletes who face injury: “Never give up on the things you really want.”
In 2008, Courteney’s prospects of returning to cheerleading were unknown at best.
Extensive corrective surgery required Dr. Goodwin to fuse the bones of the spine together with the help of bone grafts and metallic implants. Courteney was restricted to little or no physical activity, truly frustrating orders for a girl used to literally flying through life. But Courteney displayed an amazing amount of courage and was back on the mat in less than a year, proving all that had doubted her wrong.
Courteney’s courage in light of a devastating condition is why she is being awarded the Cleveland Clinic Sports Health Courage Award at the 14th Annual Greater Cleveland Sports Awards on January 23, 2014 at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel Grand Ballroom.
Courteney’s condition was first discovered at Westlake Schools health screening. She was referred to her pediatrician, who connected Courteney to Dr. Goodwin.
“It was always my choice. But Dr. Goodwin recommended surgery sooner rather than later. He said the younger I do it, the faster I would bounce back,” she said.
Highly motivated to get back to her normal activities, Courteney was once again active with her competitive cheerleading club, the North Coast All Stars in Berea, in just six months.
She also found more than a physician in Dr. Goodwin. She found a friend and mentor.
“Dr. Goodwin is the most awesome guy on earth,” says Courteney. “Maybe my surgery would have been the same. But everything before and after the surgery would not have been the same.”
Courteney’s back doesn’t bother her now. But she consults Dr. Goodwin about routine strains and overuse injuries.
“I have gone back to him for everything after the surgery. He is just always so encouraging about everything. When he finally tells me ‘yes’ about returning to sports, he is just as excited as I am,” says Courteney.
Dr. Goodwin’s influence on Courteney has also impacted her career decision. Next fall, she plans to attend Ohio University to major in physical therapy for children. “He is like a friend, a mentor,” said Courteney.
Courteney’s dad, Tony Belmonte, is a fan of both Courteney and Dr. Goodwin. “My daughter defines the word ‘Courage,’” he says. “And Dr. Goodwin is the kind of person you want to be around as much as possible. He’s not just a doctor. He is a friend.”
Courteney also has a word of advice for other student-athletes who may be struggling with injuries.
“Listen to your doctor, even if you don’t want to,” she said. “There are times you want to give up. But don’t. Keep going back.”