Against the Odds: Mullen's Ginkens battles clubfoot to play game he loves

Every time Mullen senior Logan Ginkens steps on the basketball court, it isn't just the opposing team he will have to battle that night. Ginkens was born with bilateral club feet, a condition causing the ankle to point downward and the toes to be pulled toward the inner leg and the bottom of the foot to face inward instead of downward. In addition, the tendons on the inside of the leg are shortened and the Achilles tendon is tighter than on an average human leg. The feet are also usually very short and wide. Club feet are diagnosed in one out of every thousand births. It was more likely in the Ginkens family due to it being a genetic condition on Dale's, Logan's father's side of the family. Playing with this condition is very painful and Ginkens has had to grow up quicker than your average teenager and make some tough decisions as a result. The even bigger difference between Ginkens and your average high schooler is the fact he didn't let his internal struggle hold him back. Logan’s mom, Pam, didn't have an ultrasound for him, so the family didn't know he had club feet until after Logan was born. It took some time for reality to sink in. Both Dale and Pam knew there was the possibility of their children being born with club feet but it was still a shock. The fact that her son had clubbed feet brought Pam to tears. “Both feet were curled in and up to the extent that they were almost touching the inside of his leg,” Pam said. When Logan was two months old, the family made a trip to the Shriner's Hospital-Twin Cities- a hospital in Minneapolis that treats children from all over the world with neuromusculoskeletal conditions, burn injuries and other special medical needs- for treatment options. After a casting process was deemed to not be effective enough, Logan underwent his first surgery at 10 months old. After a 10-day stay at the hospital in which Logan's feet were reconstructed, the family finally returned home. Once home, Logan began to fight this condition. He had two pins sticking out of both feet and casts that extended all the way up his legs to keep him from kicking the casts off.By age three, the feet were still resisting despite the exercises the family practiced regularly with Logan, so the doctors decided to go with casting therapy in hopes of stretching the tendons and giving the feet proper position again. Once this process started, the Ginkens family loaded up the family minivan, complete with a tv, vcr and later a playstation, and made the eleven-hour voyage to the Twin Cities every three weeks for cast changes and therapy. “Logan hated having his casts cut off," Pam said. "The saw made a loud noise and it was actually pretty scary. I think he thought they might cut his leg off." The casting therapy helped for awhile, but at four and a half years old, the clubfeet threw another punch and Logan went under the knife once again, which sent him home with more casts and a wheelchair. Logan switched between casts and plastic leg braces until about age six. He continued wearing the braces at night until he was about eight.Logan required another surgery when he was in 6th grade. This surgery left him with screws inserted in his ankles through the growth plate in an effort to straighten out the deformities of his ankle joint and minimize the risk of arthritis. Once he was in 8th grade, Logan underwent surgery once again to have the screws removed. Over the years during the healing process, his feet developed large bunions- swollen, bony knobs that caused extreme pain. Team that with the scar tissue and arthritis build-up from the surgeries, Logan knew this was something he was going to have to battle with for awhile. As he got older, Logan had to make some tough decisions. One of these came last year when yet another surgery was approaching with the goal of fixing the bunions. "I decided to give up the rest of the golf season in order to have the surgery," Logan said. "That was really tough." He was only able to have the bunions on his right foot fixed due to the bones in his left being too deformed. In order to fix the bones in his left foot, he would have to undergo bone fusion and that would cause him to lose all flexibility in his left foot. This is something Logan will wait to have fixed until his sports-playing days are over. In elementary and junior high, Logan loved to play football. He was never able to wear cleats as they would make his ankles roll. So instead, he just wore athletic shoes with extra traction. He was able to play the first couple years of high school, but the pain became too much. Dale remembers Logan coming home from those practices and putting ice on his feet and back and doing so- much as he had since the beginning- without complaint. "One night, when he could barely walk, I told him 'you know you don't have anything to prove to me or anyone else how tough you are'," Dale said. “Two days later, he called me at the store and said he thought he was going to quit football. I knew it wasn't an easy decision for him." While Pam was proud of her son for making such a bold decision, it was tough on her. "That was the first time he gave up something he loved because of his feet," Pam said. When Logan was in the wheelchair at the Shriner’s Hospital, he wouldn't let anything stop him from getting some one-on-one time with his true love- basketball. "I remember, as a little kid, I would roll around in my wheelchair to the recreation room so I could shoot baskets on the four-foot high hoop," Logan said. Now at age 18 and standing six feet tall, Logan wears a boys size 5 1/2 shoe- the smallest they could go while still affording the proper width. His calf muscles will never develop so combine that with his small feet and tall body, balance is sometimes difficult. This has not deterred him though. His true love is basketball and he will take whatever steps necessary to keep himself on the court. Much like the understanding Logan’s gained within his family, it began to spill over onto the practice floor with his teammates and coaches as well. "As I got older, I started to accept more things," Logan said. "When I was a sophomore or freshman and the coach would make me sit out of a drill in basketball practice or take me out of a game because he thought I needed a break, I would get so ticked off because I knew I could do it. Now that I'm older, I understand that it's ok to take a break and no one will think any different of me." As the senior point guard on a basketball team preparing for a possible state tournament run, Logan has grown to learn how to deal with the defection in his most effective weapon- his feet. He takes Aleve before every game and checks out a few minutes before every half to go get his feet worked on by Dale in the locker room using their own ultra-sound machine. The ultra-sound helps to loosen his feet back up so he can continue to play. This is one of the main things that still bugs Logan. “He usually has his feet treated with about two minutes left in the second quarter," teammate Riley Rice said. "Logan doesn't like to go out and leave us. And last year when we rested his feet he was super mad he had to miss a whole game." While that may be of annoyance to Logan, his teammates and friends are encouraged by his attitude and his desire to not let his condition define him. Even for some who have known him his whole life, they forget he has the condition. “I've been friends with Logan since kindergarten and it took me until I was probably half way through the summer after first grade to realize he had clubbed feet, and the only reason I found out was because we went to the pool and I saw them," teammate Josh Vinton said. "All his life Logan has been a person that doesn't let challenges overwhelm him. He hasn't let his feet get in the way of any of his goals. He is the toughest guy I know and a great friend." Just like with his family, Logan doesn't have anything to prove to his teammates or his coach, Rusty Moore. "I always used to ask Logan how his feet were," Moore said. "He always used to tell me they were ok. I told him that if they were really bothering him, he could take a break and that nobody expects anything different of him. He's gotten a lot better about that as a junior and senior." The man you see before you on the court today is playing because he loves the sport, despite his pain. He doesn't want pity or for others to feel sorry for him. He's a man who's deserving of your utmost respect and is a walking, talking example of the phrase 'you can do anything you set your mind to.’ Logan is a man who is deserving of the spotlight, yet humble enough to shy away from it. He has fought his way onto the court and learned how to overcome a condition that only occurs once out of every thousand births and has learned how to make it normal- on the court or off. "He's probably one of the toughest people I know and never wants people to know when he is in pain," friend and girls basketball team member Madison Tomlinson said. "He doesn't want his feet to limit him from doing anything whether that's work, sports, or just messing around."