Trauma surgery restores teen's dream of playing college ball


South Kingstown's Montaner Fresilli donning a University of Rhode Island team jersey prior to signing his commitment letter. Photo courtesy of URI Athletics

High school star makes comeback from severe injury, accepts offer to play at URI

Everything was looking up for Montaner Fresilli, a formidable right tackle for South Kingstown High School.

At 6-foot-2, 250 pounds, Fresilli was on his way to being named an all-state offensive lineman in just his sophomore year and his Rebels were headed to the playoffs. College scouts would soon come calling. 

But in that first playoff game on Nov. 11, 2016, in front of the cheering hometown fans, Fresilli’s streak of success came to an abrupt halt. In the second quarter, as Fresilli was trying to block for a running play, the legs of a Central High School defender got badly entangled in his and took Fresilli down awkwardly.

“I ended up twisting my ankle about 90 degrees,” Fresilli recalls. “I tried to stand up and immediately fell over. I knew something wasn’t right.”

When Hasbro Children’s Hospital pediatric orthopedic surgeon Jonathan Schiller, MD, saw Fresilli, he knew he’d have to operate once the swelling went down. Fresilli had not only fractured his fibula, he’d also badly disrupted his syndesmosis, a major part of the connection between the fibula and the tibia, the other bone in the lower leg.


Jonathan Schiller, MD

During the surgery, Dr. Schiller used a steel plate to align and stabilize the fractured fibula. He also inserted a large screw across the fibula to the tibia to allow the syndesmosis to heal. The large screw was later removed to reestablish the normal relationship between the tibia and fibula. 

Fresilli had to keep the weight off his foot for a couple of months. But by January, he began rehab, first three times a week and then every other day.  His desire to make a comeback grew even more intense when scouts from area colleges began reaching out to him in the spring.

Fresilli had just a couple of months of rigorous physical training under his belt when the fall 2017 football season started. But by the fall 2018 season, he had regained much of his strength and conditioning and was feeling confident.

“I can run and do everything,” he said. “I have a full range of motion.”

By then, Fresilli had been offered a scholarship to play Division 1 football just a few miles from where he grew up -- at the University of Rhode Island.

“I proudly accepted,” he said. “I’m very happy.”

Dr. Schiller, who stayed in touch with Fresilli about his athletic and academic plans for college, was pleased to hear of his decision and how the surgery has allowed him to once again excel at football.

“From a performance standpoint, the proof is in the pudding. The kid went back out and played,” said Dr. Schiller.  “He’s arguably the best lineman in the state and he’s going to play for a Division 1 team.”

Fresilli said the care he received allowed him to make a full recovery.

“Dr. Schiller is by far one of the best doctors,” Fresilli said. “He came in with a big smile on his face and said, ‘Let’s take a look.’  He was confident in what he thought was the best option. He really cared.”