Back in February of 2019, I nervously went to my first soccer College ID camp as an eighth-grader. Being on the SCCL team (which is one level below the top level, ECNL), I was one of five players from my team who had the opportunity to play up and showcase my skills. On an early warm Saturday morning, my Dad and I drove about 45 minutes to Emerson, Georgia to the LakePoint sports complex.
Not going to lie, from the very beginning I was intimidated by the number of girls who were there. Not to mention all of the college coaches who looked all snazzy and terrifying in their sunglasses and baseball hats, with their college logo gleaming in the early morning light.
Everything was going pretty well, until about two hours into the camp when we were doing a one-on-one defending vs. attacking drill. It was now my turn to defend and try not to let the offender get to the other side. One thing led to another and I ran up to her to try to slow her down; as I did this I got ready to tackle her, but ended up falling to the ground. When I got myself up, my knee buckled and I immediately knew something wasn’t right. It felt so unstable and unlike anything I’d felt before that I just stood there in the middle of the field because I couldn’t immediately move myself off to the side. After being escorted off the field and inspected by the trainer, he said that I was probably fine and that I should just ice it, but that it was nothing too serious. The weird thing was, my knee no longer hurt anymore, but I knew I couldn’t go back on that field.
After many days of trying to get an MRI, it was official- I tore my ACL and needed surgery. On the first day of spring break I had my surgery. The surgeons only expected to operate on my ACL, but they also found that both my meniscuses were torn in two places. Essentially, I just shredded my whole knee. I basically spent the rest of the break in the worst amount of pain I’ve ever felt. To put things into perspective, I couldn’t go to the bathroom or bathe by myself, and each night we tried different places I could sleep - the guest bedroom, to my bedroom, to the couch, which was eventually the most comfortable. I slept two hours each night, I had to stay upstairs since I couldn’t go up/down stairs, and every little tweak of my leg sent a rollercoaster of pain spiraling up my whole leg. On the bright side I now have four different scars on my leg so that’s….. Great!
In the year I’ve spent recovering, I have learned some lessons that might be helpful to the walking wounded among us.
1: You control your recovery.
Yes, while this may seem very obvious it is probably the most important thing I have learned. Getting injured sucks, especially to be out for a year-minimum, but the way to ensure that you get back onto the field or court (or whatever the space is that you compete), is to do what you need to do. Whether it be physical therapy, going to the trainer, or just regularly stretching, the only person who can control your recovery process is you. The surgeons, trainers and therapists, parents and friends are there to support you and guide you in what you need to do, but at the end of the day, it is up to you!
2: Be consistent.
Getting injured is only a setback and it isn’t permanent-unless you make it. To prevent further injury, it is important to regularly do the exercises given. My physical therapist said to me once that the progress you make can just as easily revert if you don’t consistently do what was given to you.
3: Stay involved.
Staying involved with your team is one of the most important things to do. It allows you to be a part of the team, even though you may not be able to actively participate. Staying involved can also be kind of hard. It stinks sitting on the sideline as you watch everyone else have fun doing what you love. But, by being on the side, you not only can still be engaged with the others on the team, but you also can still learn from watching the others, which you may not be able to do if you were participating. By going to the team practices and games, it also shows the coaches and other players how involved you are with the sport and team, making it easier to get back into the grind when you are back on the pitch.
4: Stay positive and don’t pity yourself.
This is obvious and maybe a little cheesy, but it is very important. Staying positive is good for your health and therefore can play into the rest of the recovery. If you are down on yourself, you are already making things more complicated for yourself. Positivity puts good vibes into the air, which can’t be anything but a good thing! Secondly, I have learned to not pity yourself. Yes, it’s reasonable to be sad that you’re facing setback, but don’t let this play into your every move. Self-pity reinforces the sense of being a victim, bringing with it hopelessness and inaction. I’d say, acknowledge that you may be suffering, but also take action so that you aren’t anymore.
5: Stay Motivated-Work and Reward
For me, this was something that I struggled with. For the majority of my recovery, I didn’t have motivation to do the exercises I was given. My parents would often get onto me for this, but it was often hard to make it to the gym and I was so packed with schoolwork that I didn’t feel like doing my PT (physical therapy) work either. Once I received my learner’s permit, I always wanted to go practice since I had been longing to drive since I was basically seven. My parents realized this and we came up with an agreement: If I did all of the exercises, I would get to go out and practice driving. This worked for me: the idea of doing something then getting rewarded is a great way to get the ball rolling.
This past year has definitely been a heck of a ride. Nowhere in a million years did I ever think something like this could happen, but ACL injuries are an epidemic, especially for girls. No matter the injury, big or small, it’s important to find the bright side in everything. Whether you have a cast, a wrap, or even some stitches, you always have to get up when you fall!