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Gellman works to stay in game

Stuart Gellman, age 74, is an avid tennis player. He still practices law and was once ranked as one of the area's top 10 racquetball players, almost 40 years ago.

Since 1978, Gellman has had 16 operations, some so severe that it is amazing he is still walking, let alone playing tennis at a reasonably good level.

The list of operations:

*1978: First of six arthroscopic procedures on his right knee.

*1994: Torn tendon in his right elbow necessitating major surgery.

*2001: Spinal neck surgery resulting in his being in a neck cast for eight weeks.

*2002: Major back surgery resulting in his not playing tennis for almost a year.

*2004: Left knee replacement.

*2005: Prostate cancer, which resulted in great overall weakness in his body.

*2006: Rotator tear in right shoulder (physical therapy).

*2007: Right knee replacement.

*2008: Stress fracture in right leg.

*2010: More major back surgery, which resulted in him not playing tennis for over a year.

*2010: Rotator surgery on his right shoulder.

*2011: Stress fracture in left leg.

What is the secret of Gellman's indomitable spirit and never give up attitude?

"You must set a goal and work as hard as you can to get better," Gellman said. "Even though I was in dire pain I worked as hard as I could to get better and to get back on the tennis court after each of my operations. You have to be careful with pain medication. Even though it helps, it could cause some side effects. Therefore, you should strive to lower the dosage as much as possible. It also goes without saying that you should research and find the best doctors and physical therapists available in the Western New York area. You can do this by asking other tennis players or athletes which doctors and physical therapists they went to and had success. I can't stress enough that you must think of your mind over body to get back on the court to play tennis."

Gellman's problems started when he had been playing racquetball and tennis for a number of years. His knee was causing him great pain and was locking. He knew that something was drastically wrong.

"I went to see Dr. Jim Smith who was one of the best knee doctors in the area and was also an outstanding golfer, who had done many knee surgeries on some of the best athletes in Western New York," Gellman said.

He wasn't surprised when Dr. Smith told him that he had a bad tear in his right knee and needed arthroscopic surgery as soon as possible. After surgery, Gellman went to physical therapy and stressed how important that is after you have surgery.

When Gellman had a torn rotator cuff in 2006, his therapist, Dennis Horrigan worked wonders with him over a four-month period and was able to have Gellman continue tennis without surgery.

From 2008 to 2010, Gellman was experiencing horrific back pain. Gellman talked to a friend who had been in virtually the same situation that Gellman was in. His friend convinced Gellman to see Dr. Chris Hammill who had operated on him. The operation was all set until Gellman had another setback. Unbelievably, a month before his scheduled back surgery for a spinal fusion, Gellman severely tore his right rotator cuff and found out that he also had to have surgery on the shoulder. Gellman decided to go ahead with the back surgery and scheduled the rotator cuff surgery with Dr. Phil Stegemann, another top local surgeon.

The spinal fusion back surgery was a 10-hour operation. Dr. Hammill told him that it would take at least a year before he would be able to get back to normal activity and he would have to do mostly walking. From the hospital, he went to the Beechwood Rehab facility for two weeks.

For the next three months he received physical therapy three times a week from Well Care. Shortly after he had the rotator cuff surgery. After that, Jeff Goodrich, a local physical therapist, worked with Gellman for the next few months.

"I had to work physically as hard as I had ever worked in my life to get better, and I owe much of my success to [Goodrich]," Gellman said.

After all that, Gellman is playing tennis again and feels that he moving the best he has in year.


The "You Cannot be Serious" Tri-Level Team, which was undefeated in local, regional and sectional play, will participate in the BNP Paribas Open Tri-Level Tennis Team Championships from March 15-18 in Indian Wells, Calif. Team captains and members are: 4.5 -- captain Steve Beatty, Tim Sands, and Sashivarnan Sabanathan; 4.0 -- captain Joshua Dyck Andrew Puleo, and Glenn L. Snowden; 3.5 -- captain Scott Gould, Paul Kullman, Greg Collesano, and Jim Horne.