Olivia Hicks is a 19 year old gymnast. She has been doing gymnastics for 13 years, and absolutely loves it. Currently, she is a university student studying exercise and sport science, and hopes to continue to pursue a masters in strength and conditioning.
1) Can you share your ACL story?
I was at Saturday morning training and it was two weeks away from my first major gym competition of the year. I went to do my acro series on the beam (walkover flip). As I went for the flip, my hand slipped and my knee came down on a weird angle and smacked the beam really hard. As soon as it happened, it felt like my whole knee moved in a circle and hurt quite a bit. Initially, I knew I did some soft tissue damage cause it hurt so much but I did not think at all that I had torn such a major ligament in my knee because I got up half an hour later and was able to put pressure on it. I went to my physio 2 days after the injury and they told me I had a grade 3 MCL tear and wanted me to go get an MRI, as they were really concerned that I injured my ACL as well. The MRI came back 3 days later, and yep! ...confirmed that I tore my ACL.
2) What was the hardest part of the experience?
As I’m writing this, I’m currently 6 weeks post op so I’m not that far into the process. But so far it’s been quite tough, mostly mentally - physically, it's okay. The hardest part right now is having to watch my teammates train and learn new skills without me, and not being able to be on the competition floor with them. It makes me so angry that they get to do what they love every day. I love supporting the girls but I just envy them so much. And the thing is, none of them understand what I’m going through mentally and I can’t just express my feelings to any of the girls or my coaches because they just won’t get it or they will think I’m being petty and not tough enough. The hardest part isn’t the tedious amounts of rehab, it’s definitely the mental side of the injury. It’s so hard to stay mentally strong through it all and to stay in the game. I think when it comes time to the phase of returning to sport, it will be so hard as well. I can already feel that I will be so nervous getting back into gymnastics, I’m going to be so conscious of my knee and so scared of if I tear it again. It’s going to be so hard to build that confidence back up again.
3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?
I guess just focusing on my end goal; getting back to gymnastics and doing what I love. I know that if I continue to do my rehab properly, consistently and continue to listen to my physical therapist, I will be able to come back better and stronger.
4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?
Don’t give up and stick with it! You will have a lot more bad days before it gets good again. Through those bad days is when you just have to keep reminding yourself why you are going through this and what your end goals is.
5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?
I know I’m only early on in the process but I do think this experience is already changing me. Before the injury, I was not very mentally tough at all and right now I don’t think I have ever been this mentally tough in my entire life. I’m learning to push past the negative thoughts stopping me and focusing on the good things that will come out of this injury. I think my work ethic has also changed quite a bit. Before, not as motivated to achieve my goal - however, through this injury I have learned that if I don’t continue to work hard, I won’t be able to get back to where I was.