As soon as I fell, I knew I had torn my ACL. The sound of the tear still echoes in my head; the moment is stuck on replay.
Soccer has been the focal point in my life since I can remember. Every weekend was spent driving to games, and every weekday was spent on the field practicing. When I was fourteen, I heard the words “ACL prevention” from a coach. She pushed us to cross-train because it would strengthen our muscles as well as ligaments and tendons.
Looking back, I did all the right things when it came to injury prevention. I was diligent with my flexibility, strength training, eating healthy, and cross-trained at a relatively young age. I continued this pattern throughout high school, right throughout most of my college career. Then that one awkward step happened to me, and my upcoming season was out of reach for me.
Within the year, I had four girls on my team, both my coaches and friends on other sports who went through surgeries, and some were waiting too. I also noticed that most of the teams we played there was at least one player on the sidedlines with an ACL injury. What is more alarming is the number of re-tears that I would see. This is extremely common in soccer.
The journey to playing again is strenuous and painful. However, when I finally began practicing and then playing again, my battle was not my injury, it was my mind. I was not as confident, and I kept thinking about a reinjury, I was holding back, I was not as fearless as I once was. Since all of these factors tore away at my confidence, I found myself on the bench. I thought about quitting the game, but deep down, there was something in me that would not allow it. It took some time but once I went to talk to a professional I was back and I was better than ever.
Here are hurdles that I went through during recovery.
I cried a lot
Crying is an emotion and a natural response to what is happening in your life, good or bad. Since tears contain a high level of stress hormones when you are upset or angry, I say let them run.
Getting dressed was not an easy task
When you can’t bend your knee, or stand on one leg, getting dressed becomes a struggle. I woke up a half-hour earlier than I usually would have. I had to wrap my knee to shower, and then I had to move slowly so I would not slip while going back to my room. Then I had to take the time to get dressed. I played some upbeat music, so I would not get frustrated.
Netflix was my best friend
With nothing else to do, why not watch all the Gilmore Girls seasons. I did this over Spring break while my friends went to Costa Rica. Honestly, it kept me out of trouble.
Sleeping was not easy
Honestly, the first week was a struggle for me. I ended up investing in a specialized pillow; it was similar to a body pillow; it elevated my leg. It’s good to keep the injury above your heart due to blood flow, and it also kept the swelling down. I had to adjust here and there, but I found what worked best for me.
Peeing was a hassle for me
Don’t judge. I had to keep getting up to pee, probably because I was drinking a ton of fluids. Once I got comfortable with my Netflix 20 minutes later, I had to go through the painful process of getting up. Plus, I could not move fast on my crutches. So when I had to pee, I would play music that I could sing along to.
The weekends were not fun, especially when all your friends are out
My friends were out every weekend having fun, it made me sad, and I felt lonely. I tried to go out one weekend, but I sat for the whole night. I tried drinking, but I quickly found out that mixing alcohol with my pain meds was not a good idea. I ended up crying the entire night, which might be because alcohol is a depressant. All I have to say is don’t do it!
I became closer to my parents
My dad taught me how to play cribbage; my mom was my butler. They were both amazing and supportive. I have a newfound respect for them.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
ACLs are brutal, but coming back from them will make you stronger. If Tom Brady and Lindsey Vonn can do it, I thought, then so can I!
Posted on November 16, 2015 in Life of a College Athlete
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