Dru Gylten has been playing basketball for as long as she can remember.
“Both of my parents played basketball in college,” Gylten said. “I was definitely born into the sport.”
A South Dakota native, Gylten was recruited to the University of Utah Women’s Basketball team in 2017. She played on the team until 2022, when she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, with a double minor in business and pediatric clinical research.
Even though Gylten graduated, she hasn’t yet left the court. She is now in her sixth—and final—year of collegiate basketball closer to home, at South Dakota State.
Gylten credits her longevity in the sport to University of Utah Health.
In September of 2020, she felt a pinching sensation in her hip and groin area. Thinking it was normal muscle soreness from her intensive training schedule, she hoped the issue would resolve itself. Unfortunately, things only got worse.
Gylten met with Travis Maak, MD about her injury. Maak is the head orthopedic team physician for the Utah Jazz, team physician for University of Utah Athletics, and associate professor in the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah. Her MRI results showed a torn labrum, caused by an impingement in her hip.
“We first tried an injection at the site of the injury to see if that would help take the pain away,” Gylten said. “It didn’t really help, and the pain was still there.”
A seasoned athlete and competitor, Gylten had no problem pushing through a little bit of pain to try and finish the season.
“I’ve had more severe injuries,” she said. “I played from September until February, and that’s when it just got to be too much pain.”
At that point, Gylten decided it wasn’t worth it to finish out the final few months of the 2020-2021 season.
Gylten had hip surgery to fix her torn labrum on February 16, 2021. As for the recovery process, Gylten says she is glad she had Maak in her corner.
The thing I loved the most about Dr. Maak was his personality, and the fact that he works with the Utah Jazz and knows so much about basketball. He was very honest with me. He knew my position on the court and knew how I had to play. That helped him fine tune my recovery plan so that it was very specific to me and my needs.
Three months after her surgery, Gylten began running and slowly returning to her strict training regimen. By August of 2021, she was officially cleared to return to the basketball court for her final year at the University of Utah. For Gylten, it was a huge relief to have a relatively speedy recovery.
“I tore my ACL in 2017 and was out for a whole year,” Gylten said. “Compared to that process, this surgery was totally night and day. It was easier, and Dr. Maak was just so open and honest about things. I was also able to spend the summer after the surgery building up my strength, which was a blessing going into my final season with the Utes feeling really confident.”
Gylten feels much more confident and stable since her surgery and continued to have the support of Dr. Maak, who continued to follow her healing journey. An incident at one of her first games back left her wondering if she had reinjured her hip. Maak stepped in to provide the support and expertise she needed.
“I was getting double-teamed, my leg got stuck as I tried to move forward, and it kind of pulled a little bit on my hip,” Gylten said. “Dr. Maak and I both wanted to be careful in case I had reinjured my hip in that moment. And here he is once again, being so amazing. He reviewed the footage of the incident and assured me there was no way I could have retorn it.”
Ever since then, Gylten has had zero pain. Even though she no longer plays for the University of Utah, she will always be a Ute at heart.
“South Dakota is currently undefeated in our conference play, and we are regular season champions,” Gylten said. “We are doing well. But it’s been really fun to continue to watch Utah. I’m still close with the coaches and my teammates. They are having a great season and it’s super fun to watch.”
University of Utah’s Women’s Basketball team finished 25-4 in the season and entered the NCAA March Madness tournament as a #2 seed.
As she celebrates the final months of her collegiate career at South Dakota State, Gylten continues to support her former teammates in Utah—a place that will always feel like a second home.
“Growing up in South Dakota, I loved being outside, so Salt Lake City was a great fit for me,” Gylten said. “The University of Utah has so many amazing opportunities being in the PAC-12 [with] the state-of-the-art facilities, and having people like Dr. Maak behind you…especially being a young person with college ahead of you.”
Even though Gylten’s college career is coming to a close, she is definitely going out on a high note. Gylten’s team—the South Dakota State Jackrabbits—went undefeated in conference play, taking home the championship title at the Summit League Women’s Basketball Championship on March 6. That means Gylten and her team earned a bid into the NCAA tournament as a #8 seed.
No matter what, life for Gylten won’t be slowing down anytime soon. She is getting married in June, and then hopes to attend Physician’s Assistant (PA) school starting this fall.