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pro spotlight

motivational spotlight: Carro Djupsjö

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Caroline “Carro” Djupsjö is a 26 years old professional wakeboarder from Sweden. The summer she turned 13, she spent every minute at the local waterski club; riding with her friends in the freezing waters of Sweden. After endless attempts, crashes, and headaches from the sport, she finally landed her first backroll and discovered the incredible adrenaline rush of wake boarding. Since that moment, she has not stopped following her passion for wakeboarding. With the support of her sponsors and the Swedish Wakeboard Federation, she is now incredibly grateful to be traveling the world competing and doing what she loves.

In 2014, she was named European Female Wakeboard Athlete of the Year and has been competing internationally since 2008. Prior to tearing her ACL in 2016, she placed 1st in the Battle of the Backyard race in Sweden. She trained hard in rehab and made an incredible comeback, winning 1st place in the US Open of Cable Wakeboarding in Dallas, Texas.

To help other athletes, she opens up to XCLevation about her ACL recovery experience, and advice for the road to recovery.

BE SURE TO FOLLOW CArro ON IG: @wakecarro



 
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Carro Djupsjö shares her ACL experience

ON HER ACL STORY

I was out wakeboarding in the Philippines and ended up landing weird on a trick that I usually can do in my sleep. After numerous MRI’s and doctor appointments it was clear that I had a partial tear in my ACL and LCL, tear in both meniscus, cracks in both my tibia and fibula and a crack in the patella cartilage.

It took two surgeries to clean it all up, the second one being my ACL reconstruction with a patella graft.

For a more detailed explanation of my ACL injury and comeback, check out the video at the end of the post.


ON THE HARDEST PART OF THE EXPERIENCE

The hardest part was that for so long I had been identifying myself as “Wakeboard-Carro” and all of a sudden I couldn’t do the thing I’d been working so hard towards and loved more than anything. Watching everyone else progress and have fun during the summer and patiently sitting on my stationary bike doubting whether or not my knee would ever be okay. 


ON A TYPICAL DAY PRE AND POST ACL TEAR

Pre-ACL tear, I’d wake up and have a yoga session, have breakfast and go wakeboard for 2 hours. Then have lunch, answer some emails and a power nap before another 2-3 hour evening session and if I wasn’t completely wrecked I tried to squeeze in a 15-20 minute workout after that (e.g. weights or running).

Post-ACL surgery, I would spend about 1-2 hours a day rehabbing and the rest of the time studying or seeing my family. Everyday was different and I tried to distract my mind as much as possible by trying to take up things I otherwise would have been too busy to do. I started university, for example. Once I could start using my knee a bit more, I took up rock-climbing and fell in love with it! 

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ON REHAB FOR A PRO WAKEBOARDER VS. RECREATIONAL ATHLETE

It’s hard to say how rehab is different because I think everyone is unique. Im sure recreational athletes can feel as strongly about their sports as professional wakeboarders can. I guess one thing that may be different is that I got help from an amazing PT 2-3 times a week due to being on the national team. Besides seeing her those times, I usually did 3-4 sessions a week on my own as my mind was burning to get back to my sport, which I’m sure can be found in anyone passionate enough about what their doing. 

The biggest difference, I suppose, is the added stress I felt due to not knowing if my sponsors would support me during my comeback or if I’d get dropped from the team, which in my work equals getting fired, which can cause serious financial issues. I did lose two of my sponsors in the process, but the most important ones stood by me and supported me throughout my entire recovery period.

ON ADVICE FOR OTHER ATHLETES RECOVERING FROM ACL INJURIES

There is so much advice that I could share, but it would be hard to share it all here. That’s why I’ve started posting more ACL videos and thoughts on my youtube channel @Wakecarro. If I can narrow it down to two tips it would be these:

(1) DO YOUR REHAB
No matter how boring it is or how little you feel results, it does help. One thing I did was to write a diary or film myself doing certain drills. Then I could look back and see that even though I didn’t feel any better from day to day, I was progressing. 

(2) DISTRACT YOURSELF
If you end up worrying about whether things will work out and if your knee will ever get better, than you’ll go insane. Try to trust that everything will be okay and try putting new things in your brain instead of those “worst case scenario”-thoughts. Start painting or take up swimming or learn to play guitar. 


ON HOW SHE GOT INTO WAKEBOARDING AND WENT PRO

I started wakeboarding back home in Sweden and I never thought I would ever go Pro. After my first year of competing at 14, I had won almost every contest I entered and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing coaches, friends and very supportive parents. I moved out of my parents house to attend a school with special focus on sports at 16. By 19, I was done with school and decided to try my luck in the US. By 21, I had turned fully pro, where I had sponsors that could fully support my lifestyle. I still look back and feel so blessed to have gotten to where I am today with a ton of hard work and help from the most amazing people along the way. 


ON HOW THIS INJURY HAS CHANGED HER LIFE

This injury has changed my life completely and I know that this may sound weird but I believe that if I could go back and not hurt my knee that day, I would still hurt it. Today I am back wakeboarding better than ever as all the time I had to take off gave me time  to strengthen my body and get in the best shape of my life. All the things I learned from the tedious rehab and all the new aspects of life I was shown (like school, new hobbies and new friends) gave me so much more than I think I would’ve gotten wakeboarding that season. I know you may not feel like it while you’re going through the rehab (I know I def did not!), but there might come a day where you’re grateful for what you learned through your injury. 

Good luck to you and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. I was lucky to work with a sport psychologist to get me through my darkest thoughts and it really helped to be able to vent to someone. 

Thank you Carro for sharing your experience and advice with the XCLevation community!


Watch Carro Djupsjö in action


 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight: Tom Breese

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Tom Breese, from Birmingham, England, is a professional MMA fighter currently fighting in the UFC’s middleweight division. His professional record is 11-1 and he is also a Blackbelt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Not too long ago, Breese was the most talked about prospect from UK.

Some athletes love the fame game - but for Breese, one of the most humble MMA fighters, he loves the technical side of MMA and the thrill of competing. He shared that while recovering from his ACL and meniscus injury, he was always searching for inspiring comebacks to motivate himself.

To help other athletes, he opens up to XCLevation about his ACL recovery experience, and advice for the road to recovery.

BE SURE TO FOLLOW TOM BREESE ON IG: @BREESEMMA



 

Tom Breese shares his ACL experience

ON WHAT LED HIM TO BECOME A UFC FIGHTER

I started training in MMA at 16 years old after becoming a fan from watching it on TV. I had nine amateur fights before I turned professional at 18 years old. I won the BAMMA (a big MMA organisation in the U.K.) title in my 6th pro fight and got signed by the UFC after my 7th professional fight with a record of 7-0. I’ve had 5 fights in the UFC so far and my current record is 11-1.

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ON HIS ACL STORY

I tore my first ACL in my left knee during a training session. I believe it was already partially torn because when I completely tore it, I felt little pain. It was during a takedown in sparring when it happened. I used a patellar tendon graft and I was back to light MMA training after 6 months of rehab. The 2nd ACL I tore was in my right knee - this was during a grappling match again, while I was being taken down. I also tore my meniscus. This time the injury was extremely painful and I was screaming in pain.

I had a second ACL surgery with the same surgeon, Tim Spalding, who is based in Leamington Spa, England and is top class at what he does. Again, I had a patellar tendon graft and was back training 5 months post op and competed in a grappling match 7 months post-op.


ON THE HARDEST PART OF THE EXPERIENCE

The hardest part of the experience is definitely the time out from competing in the sport I love. 6-9 months is a long period to rehab an injury and it almost feels like a prison sentence when you find out you’ve torn a ACL.

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ON ADVICE FOR OTHER ATHLETES RECOVERING FROM ACL INJURIES

My advice to other athletes recovering from ACL surgery is to use the recovery time to make yourself a better athlete, and not use it as a vacation. Train consistently and work around your injury. Get strong and fitter. Eat and sleep well. This will all help in your return to sport. Come back physically fitter and mentally stronger than before. Also, stay disciplined to your physiotherapist’s instructions and work with a physiotherapist that you can trust.

ON HOW BEING A UFC FIGHTER HELPED IN HIS RECOVERY

I believe being a fighter helped me a lot with the experience as my discipline and mental strength made sure I put the work in during the rehab. I also believe this injury has made me a better fighter because I focused so much on strength and conditioning during my rehab. Also, mentally, I appreciate being able to do what I do a lot more than I did prior to the injuries.

ON HIS DREAM AFTER MAKING A COMEBACK

My dream after recovery is to be a world champion in the UFC. It was my dream before, and it remains my dream. To do it after recovering from two ACL reconstructions will be even more satisfying.

Thank you Tom for sharing your experience and advice with the XCLevation community!

SPECIAL THANKS TO KEY PLAYERS IN TOM BREESE’S RECOVERY:

  • DR. TIM SPALDING, SURGEON

  • STEVE WRIGHT, PHYSIOTHERAPIST

  • NEIL SIMMS, PHYSIOTHERAPIST


 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight: Jean-Simon Roy

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Offensive lineman, Jean-Simon Roy (also known as J-S Roy), first started playing football at the age of 12 on his highschool team at Séminaire Saint-François in Quebec.

During the summer of 2012, he was selected to represent Team Canada in the World Junior Championship in Austin, Texas. In that final game, they defeated Team USA, and were declared World Champions. He then played college football at Laval University in Canada, and won two National titles in only four years. He was also named on the first All-Canadian Team in 2016 and was drafted that same year in the second round of the CFL (Canadian Football League) Draft by the Edmonton Eskimos. In 2017, he tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season - however he has made a full recovery and is back in the game!

Not only is he a professional football player in the CFL, but he is also the founder of CampNextGen, an organization focused on developing young football players.

BE SURE TO FOLLOW J-S ROY ON IG: @linemanworking



 

Q&A with J-S Roy

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

I tore my ACL in the 8th game of the season in Winnipeg. I knew right away that my ACL was torn, as I heard the sound of a large elastic band tearing up. A month later, I had surgery in Quebec city. I chose to use the hamstring tendons as the graft because the doc told me it was the best way to do it in his opinion, especially for a lineman. Rehab was a long process, in order to be able to return to playing football at a professional level. 12 months after surgery, I was back on the field even though, I felt I had been well before then.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part of the whole process was definitely the first week after the ACL tear. I was frustrated that my first CFL season was already done. The rehab went super well, and I followed everything my physio asked me to do. I was in the physio clinic everyday for 1-2 hours getting it done.

3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery season?

I stayed motivated by being around people who knew how much I wanted to be back as a better football player. The physio, the docs, my girlfriend and family were really supportive and helped me stay mentally focused all the way until my comeback. Speaking with my friends who had gone through the process before also helped me a lot.

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes recovering from ACL injuries?

My first advice would be to get your range of motion back as as soon as possible! Also, follow your specialist's instructions and walk on it with crutches the very next day after getting surgery IF your surgeon tells you that it is fine. My surgeon actually asked me to walk out of the hospital with crutches!

5) Has this injury changed you as a person, and what have you learned through this injury?

Discipline, discipline, discipline. I was already well-disciplined with my training and rehabbing injuries but it taught me to be be more patient and not to rush progress, as that’s the best way to rehab an injury such as an ACL tear. It paid off in the long run.

6) What is your biggest dream after making a comeback?

I want to win a Grey Cup in the CFL!

Thank you J-S Roy for sharing your experience and advice with the XCLevation community!

SPECIAL THANKS TO KEY PLAYERS IN J-S Roy’s RECOVERY:

  • Dr. francois marquis, surgeon

  • michael morin, physiotherapist

  • YAN PELLETIER, PHYSIOTHERAPISt

  • ANTHONY J. CAMPBELL, TRAINER

  • RAYMOND VEILLETTE, TRAINER

  • KYLE THORNE, TRAINER


 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight of the week: Drew Brees

CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION

KYLE WESTBROOK, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!

Our next feature will shine the spotlight on Drew Brees, who made headlines this season for passing Peyton Manning to become the NFL’s all-time leader for career passing yardage.

BEFORE THE INJURY

Passed over due to his height in college recruiting by bigger names schools, and then dropping again in the NFL draft due to those same perceived limitations, Brees entered the NFL as a 2 nd round pick for the San Diego Chargers despite a highly productive college career and a first round grade on his talent. He showed flashes early in his career in San Diego but durability issues and some up and down play made the Chargers draft a contingency plan in Philip Rivers during the 2004 draft. Brees responded by posting an excellent 2004 campaign, and starting 2005 strong before being hit with the big injury.

THE INJURY

On December 31 st 2005, in the last game of Brees’ make or break season, the quarterback was hit by Denver Broncos safety John Lynch, tearing his labrum. This eventually led to San Diego giving up on Brees in favor of the younger Rivers, and seeing Brees sign on as a free agent on the New Orleans Saints, who were reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina to their home city.

POST INJURY

In one of the most amazing real life sports stories, Brees recovered 100% from his surgery and spearheaded a magical season in New Orleans, serving as a beacon of hope and rallying a community still recovering from the devastating natural disaster that had just occurred the year prior. The Saints made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game before falling to the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field, ending a dismal run of futility for the franchise and serving as a harbinger of good things to come. Brees continued to be great in New Orleans, with his work culminating in a Super Bowl Championship in 2009, a remarkable

turnaround for a moribund franchise that hadn’t seen any kind of sustained success in the NFL before Brees came along. Since then, Brees has established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, breaking numerous records including the prestigious career passing record mentioned before. While he’s had to overcome much more than just his big injury, Brees still serves as a testament to how bad timing and situation caused by an injury can be reversed. Looking back at his injury now, it was just a blip on the road to a first ballot, Hall of Fame career.

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight of the week: Russ Westbrook

CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION

KYLE WESTBROOK, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!

Our next feature will shine the spotlight on Russell Westbrook, a ferocious competitor and one of the most explosive athletes we’ve ever seen.

BEFORE THE INJURY

Russ has always been one of the most controversial athletes in sports, and I believe he gets unfairly criticized for a lot of things that people just misunderstand. What’s impossible to argue is the he is truly an athletic marvel with a generational heart and motor – someone who will go 110% whether it’s the 4th quarter of game 7 of a playoff series or the first game of the season. He entered the league as a projected defense first point guards with serious questions about his ability to play offense at an NBA level and shattered those expectations thoroughly making 3 all-star teams before turning 24 years old in a ferociously competitive Western Conference.

THE INJURY

The Oklahoma City Thunder were the #1 seed and the favorite to win the championship entering the 2013 playoffs. On April 25, 2013 during game 2 of their first round series against the Houston Rockets, Rockets guard Patrick Beverley dove for a loose ball and collided with Westbrook’s right knee, tearing his right meniscus. The Thunder promptly bowed out of the playoffs in the second round without their electric point guard, and Westbrook had 3 surgeries before the end of the 2013 calendar year on the injured knee.

POST INJURY

A lot of ink has been spilled on what sunk the potential Thunder dynasty in the early 2010s when they had 3 future MVPs on their roster and no championships to show for it. A lot of that can be traced to injuries and the bad timing, especially this one to Westbrook, the heart and soul of the team. Westbrook’s off court work and diligent rehabilitation allowed him to get back on the court the next year and still manage to play 46 games during the 2013-2014 season, and he was back to peak form just one year later posting a monster season in the wake of a season-long injury to fellow superstar Kevin Durant.

Westbrook has not missed an all-star game since. With a team that was finally healthy in 2015-2016, the Thunder made it all the way to the conference finals and had a 3-1 lead on a Warriors team that had set the NBA record for regular season wins before losing that series and seeing Durant defect to the very team that beat them the summer after.

That didn’t stop Westbrook, who went out the next season and posted a season for the ages, posting the second seasonal triple double ever and winning the MVP award. Westbrook followed that up signing a long-term contract with OKC and then posting another triple double the year after. OKC may have had some very unfortunate luck over the last decade to wipe out what could have been something very special, but one thing has remained constant throughout. The heart of their team has kept beating, and doesn’t look to stop any time soon.

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight of the week: Tiger Woods

CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION

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Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!

Our next feature will shine the spotlight on Tiger Woods, one of, if not the greatest golfer of all time.

BEFORE THE INJURY

You all know Big Cat. The definitive golfer of the 1990s and early 2000s, Woods took the sport by storm and unleashed a new edge on the game through his cold, calculated dominance. Prior to rupturing his ACL, Woods already had 13 majors under his belt and had already positioned himself as a part of the conversation as the greatest of all time.

THE INJURY                                                            

Woods didn’t even suffer the injury playing golf. He ruptured the ACL in his left knee running at home after the British Open in 2007. He surprisingly opted against surgery at first and decided to keep playing despite the tear.

POST INJURY

The crazy part about this is, Woods went on to win 5 out of his next 6 events after the ACL injury. He kept it going in the 2008 season, finishing second at the Masters before having arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out cartilage in his knee, taking a few weeks off to recover. He then went and won the US open, his most recent major victory, but at a great cost. The knee got worse, and on top of that, he also got a stress fracture in his left tibia from preparation for that US open. Woods finally opted for surgery on the ACL, ending his 2008 season.

The rest of the story is pretty well documented already, with injuries to his Achilles tendon and back contributing even further to an injury marred decade as the calendar flipped into the 2010s, as well as a ton of controversy in his personal life. Tiger came very close to retiring after multiple surgeries, before attempting a comeback for the 2018 season, and you probably have already heard about what happened this year. After a slow start to the year, Woods has played his best golf in a decade, finishing 6th at The Open Championship, and second at the PGA Championship before a thrilling, headline grabbing victory at the TOUR Championship to punctuate an incredible comeback. Woods looks the healthiest he’s been in a long time, and looks to continue his success next season as he seeks his first major win in over 10 years.

 

 

pro spotlight - OCTOBER FEATURE

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motivational spotlight: Danielle Brown

Danielle Brown is a principal dancer with Florida’s Sarasota Ballet, where she trains Monday through Saturday, 9-5pm. She dedicated her life to becoming a professional ballerina, and had been training since she the age of six. During the eleventh season that she was with the ballet company, her life took an unexpected turn when she tore her ACL.

Be prepared to be inspired as she shares her story and details of her experience through the recovery season. She also opens up about how the experience impacted her and changed her perspective and mindset.


Falling with Grace

ATHLETE: DANIELLE BROWN, PROFESSIONAL BALLERINA

Danielle Brown - Theme and Variations (choreographed by George Balanchine)

Danielle Brown - Theme and Variations (choreographed by George Balanchine)

“It started out like most Mondays for me. At 31-years old, I was a ballet dancer in the prime of my career, and despite my boyfriend having just moved to Paris, I was feeling even-keeled and content.  As a professional ballet dancer, going into work every morning starts with ballet class. No matter how long you have been dancing ballet you always start with a class to warm up and keep your body in peak condition. On this Monday, it was no exception. It was my eleventh season with the ballet company I dance for and after spending that long with one company you know what to expect for the most part. Class with our ballet master was going as expected, I felt warm, strong, and like I could push a little harder that day.

I was nearly done with class; executing the final combination, when it all happened. I tore my ACL clean off the bone in my right knee, landing from a temps de fleche (to jump from one leg to the other while passing through a battement and a développé). I remember watching it happen in the mirror, I saw my knee buckle inward as I landed on it causing me to fall to the floor immediately. I was in shock and pain. I knew it was bad and knew that there would be no walking this one off. I had injuries in the past - it comes with the territory, but they were always wear and tear injuries that I was always able to manage and dance through the pain. This time though, it was different.

When I knew what I was dealing with and I was told by my doctor that I would need surgery in order for me to ever to dance again, I went home right away and started doing research. I was disappointed to find that there was not a lot of information out there on ACL surgery for ballet dancers specifically. It felt like I was in a very small group of mostly women who even wanted to attempt to dance after such a major injury.

I decided to get a patella tendon graft instead of a hamstring or cadaver graft. For me, it was the strongest and most durable option. I opted to get stem cells injected at the time of surgery as well, for added measure.  The surgery went well, despite being incredibly sick from anesthesia. What should have been out-patient surgery became an extra night and day in the hospital, and this is what started me on a rough road ahead. Everything was affected by me being so sick, I got two blood clots in my calf and had to start physical therapy a week late. If you get stem cells during surgery, you cannot take aspirin or ibuprofen. That, coupled with lack of movement because I was stuck in a hospital bed, resulted in blood clots. I am still glad I got the stem cells, though it did cause me serious problems. Starting my physical therapy a week late on blood thinners really affected my recovery.

Danielle Brown and Juan Gil - Weightless (choreographed by Ricardo Graziano)

Danielle Brown and Juan Gil - Weightless (choreographed by Ricardo Graziano)

Once I finally got going, I was sick again from the combination of blood thinners and painkillers. I was either throwing up or passing out - it made the already difficult task of moving around even harder. I had physical therapy three times a week for my entire recovery, which lasted eleven months.

When I first started, I was very naive about the process. I thought “I am a dancer, we are used to hard physical work. I literally work on my body all day for a living.” I thought I was strong and determined and that physical therapy would be the easy part. Boy was I wrong. No one tells you the amount of pain you will be in with rehabbing an ACL until you get started. The hardest part for me was forcing it to bend. It hurt more than when I originally tore it. My therapist would push on it and force it to bend to places I could not get on my own. I would cry and out in pain literally every time until the very end of my recovery. Even now a year later it still hurts to bend past a certain point. There would be some days where it would take all of my strength to go into therapy, and then the hard work and pain from the rehab session would cause me to go home and nap for hours on end after. The other thing no one tells you about is the mental exhaustion and depression you get from being in physical pain.  Dancers are like most athletes in that the path to becoming a professional means starting as a child dedicating your entire life to it.

The career of a professional ballerina is very short; from about eighteen to thirty-five or forty years old at the most, on average. So at 31-years old, I was in my prime but also seeing the end of my career more than I remembered the beginning. The fear and panic I felt from not knowing if this would all work out were crippling. I became very depressed and I was scared to death. I was scared to be on workers compensation for a year or longer, paying bills was tight on a dancer salary (one difference from most other professional athletes), and the stress of being on only a percentage of my salary for so long took a toll on me.

Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes - Theme and Variations (choreographed by George Balanchine)

Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes - Theme and Variations (choreographed by George Balanchine)

I was not prepared for all of this extra stress. I really wish I had had someone to talk to or someone who had been through it to confide in. I felt scared and alone for a good year of my life. I thought I was strong before this injury, but having been through this injury, I am now certain that I am strong.

As scared and heartbroken as I was I never quit. Even when I felt like I had lost all hope I kept going. I got up and I went to physical therapy, I went to my doctor’s appointments and I put in all my effort. Some days it was easier than others; I think I can count on one hand the amount of “good days” I had in the past year, but I kept trying despite it all. I can now proudly say that a year later, I am back! I was released by my team of doctor a year from tearing my little ACL. I still can’t believe it.  I put in the work and I killed myself to get back to what I love. I am not one hundred percent myself but it will come. They say it takes the first year back in your sport to feel normal again and your second year back you do not even think about it, you might actually feel stronger.

I have a new-found appreciation for ballet and the career I chose. I used to sweat the small stuff and complain about everything, the music being too fast or slow, a slippery floor or my feet hurting, but I do not do that anymore. Every day that I am dancing now is a true gift and I am so grateful. To be an artist and an athlete has been the greatest joy of my life and I do not want to waste another minute of it. I now know what if feels like to lose the ability to do what I love and I know there will come a day where it will be over for good, I will never take another precious day dancing for granted.”

- Danielle Brown

Thank you Danielle, for taking the time to share your story with the XCLevation community, and inspiring athletes across the globe!

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight: Matt Poland

ATHLETE: Matt poland, professional soccer player


Matt Poland has been a professional soccer player for the past 4 years. Prior to tearing his ACL and meniscus, he played for Sporting Kristina in Finland in 2018 and 2015. In 2016-2017, he played for Savsjo FF in Sweden. He graduated from Taylor University in Indiana where he played varsity soccer prior to moving to Scandinavia (Sweden and Finland).

We will be following him through his recovery towards a comeback and sharing his journey with you here. Watch Episode 1-2 and check out his interview below.


EPISODE 1-2: MATT POLAND’S JOURNEY TOWARDS THE COMEBACK


Q&A with professional soccer player, Matt Poland

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

On August 10th I was playing in a soccer game over in Finland,  15 minutes into the game I was tracking the forward into the corner.  I tried to turn and my foot got stuck in the ground and I heard a sound like a branch cracking and fell to the ground.  I got up off the ground and walked off the field knowing that something was seriously wrong.  I had an MRI soon after and discovered I had a complete ACL tear and a complex meniscus tear.  I flew back to the USA and had surgery at Mayo Clinic on August 21st.   Upon coming out of surgery I discovered the severity of my meniscus tear.  My surgeon said that 90% of surgeons would have just removed it and not tried to even fix it.  Because of this my protocol for the first 10 weeks meant crutches with 10 pounds of weight bearing on the injured knee and no more than 90 degrees of Flexion.


2) What has been the hardest part of the experience so far?
 

So far there have been 2 things that have been very difficult. The first is having to slow down and forcing myself to stay inactive for much of the day to allow the meniscus the best opportunity to heal.  As a professional athlete I am constantly on the go and it has been difficult to learn to just sit still.  The biggest area however of difficulty is the mental side of the injury.  With every new step or phase of rehab the overcoming of fears and gaining confidence has been major.  Trusting that my knee can handle whatever exercise I am doing has been difficult at times.  Also the negative self talk and worrying about the future and how it will be to play again (even though there is no value to worrying) has been a daily struggle with me.

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3) How have you stayed motivated through the recovery? 

I stayed motivated through the process in a few ways.  This whole journey is like CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN!  It won’t happen easily or quickly, but slow determined steps will allow me to complete the journey.  One way to motivate myself was making sure I never felt sorry for myself and saw each day as a challenge to only better myself from the day before.  I also tried to focus on helping others during this time.  I realized when I spent my energy encouraging others it made my problems seem less important and kept me motivated.  


4) How do you think the recovery experience is different for pro athletes vs. recreational athletes?
 

I think there are some differences between a professional athlete and a weekend warriors rehab process.  As a professional athlete it puts your career on hold while recovering and there is a fear you will never get back to the elite level you need to be to play again.  I also have as much time as I need each day to rehab because that is the only thing I have going on and I do not need to figure out how to do my rehab between work and other responsibilities. 

 
5) What advice would you share with other athletes on the road to recovery from an ACL injury?

My advice to athletes is to work on other passions that you have during this time of rehab.  As a professional athlete my career has been all consuming working on my craft.  While being injured I have had time to explore other interests in my life.  Spend the time helping others and do not make the whole rehab process just about you.   That is how I started this video documentary series.  I created it as a way to give back and share my story with others to let them know they are not alone.


6) Do you think this experience has changed you as a person?
 

Definitely!  This experience has changed me a great deal.  It has been difficult at times, but I believe that it has helped to grow me in many ways.  I have learned not to take the little things like being able to walk and drive for granted.  I also believe it has given me more empathy and realizing everyone is CLIMBING THEIR MOUNTAIN whether it is physical or mentally, everyone is struggling with something and needs encouragement.

Thank you Matt for taking the time to share our experience and journey with the XCLevation community!

inspired? FOLLOW matt poland ON InstaGram: MATTPOLAND16

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight: Onton See

ATHLETE: ONTON SEE, PROFESSIONAL DANCER


Born and raised in Toronto, Onton trained in martial arts since the age of eight, and started dancing at the age of 19. In 2007, he joined the dance crew, Supernaturalz, and since then, he has won World Championship titles, competed internationally, and represented Canada on multiple occasions.

He is world-renowned for his flow, complexity and well rounded dynamic style. He is also actively involved in community youth outreach programs and hopes to inspire many generations to come. He has battled through numerous injuries throughout his career as a breakdancer. Check out his inspiring video below!

Featured Athlete: Onton See (IG: @ontonsnc)
Videographer: Jerick Collantes (IG: @jerickcollantes)

athlete - ontonsee.jpg

1) What injuries have you experienced as a result of breakdancing?

Throughout my entire dance career, I have been getting injured time and time again. Whether it be knee injuries, sprained wrists, fractured ankles, bursitis, sprained fingers, jammed toes… it’s been tough, but I’ve never let any injury stop me from pursuing my passion.

2) As a dancer, why do you believe that your injuries are a blessing?

Injuries happen all the time for me. I think the most important thing is to maintain a positive mindset and to figure out how to work around it and come back stronger. For me personally as a dancer, having injuries is a blessing, because it forces me to train and learn new things by putting a limitation on certain movements. So actually, I end up learning to move in a new way and form while recovering from certain areas, and then when I am fully recovered, my overall style has improved. I definitely make the best of the recovery period, and remind myself that I just need to be creative in the way I train.

3) How do you stay motivated after going through multiple injuries? Do you fear re-injury?

Since I’m so obsessed with training and dancing, there’s an emotional toll and negative mental impact when I go more than a day or two without practicing. So even after multiple injuries, I continue to want to dance. It’s my life, and my passion and that’s where my motivation comes from. I just need to dance everyday (haha!). I actually don’t have a fear of re-injury [note: I have never had to go through surgery as a result of any of my injuries, thankfully]. I believe that if you have a strong mindset and are smart about your body, you will always improve if you work hard for it. Also, I’ve been through injures so many times that it’s helped me in that I’ve learned how to move and train in ways that help to reduce the risk of injury.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes recovering from injury?

Stay positive! Be smart and study your body because its your tool. Keep it maintained and eat clean. Condition well. Keep your body strong. Have fun with it. You can still have fun while recovering from injury - you just have to work around it and find new ways.

Connect with Onton:
http://instagram.com/ontonsnc
https://www.facebook.com/BboyOnton/

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight of the week: Kyle Schwarber

CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION

pro athlete - kyle-schwarber.jpg

Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!

Our next feature will shine the spotlight on Kyle Schwarber, left fielder and former catcher for the Chicago Cubs.

BEFORE THE INJURY

The Cubs took Kyle Schwarber 4th overall in the 2014 draft, and many considered him to be a polished hitter capable of contributing in the big leagues right away. He was part of a young, promising core of Cubs that were being tasked with the mission of breaking a 108-year championship drought.

In 2015, the Cubs made it back to the playoffs and Schwarber had a great year after being called up, posting a .842 OPS splitting time between catcher and the outfield. Both Kyle and the Cubs entered 2016 with all the promise in the world as the Cubs were widely considered one of the best teams in the league.

THE INJURY

In just the second game of the 2016 season, Schwarber collided with fellow outfielder Dexter Fowler when trying to field a ball, and tore both his ACL and LCL in the accident. Just like that, he was expected to miss the season, putting a stop to what was expected to be a promising season for the young slugger before it even had a chance to really begin.

POST INJURY

This turned into one of the most magical stories in sports history. Schwarber worked hard in his rehab, with an eye on trying to make it back to join his teammates for a World Series push. The Cubs played inspired baseball for their fallen teammate, and their talent and depth came through as they won their division and pushed forward in the post-season, making it to the World Series. Word started to come out that Schwarber might actually be ready for the World Series, just 7 short months after his accident, and he made it back against all odds for the opener against the Cleveland Indians. With the games in Cleveland under AL rules allowing Schwarber to act as the designated hitter, the Cubs put him out there. Kyle put together a great series, racking up 7 hits and even stealing a base as the Cubs took home the championship for the first time in 108 years, capping off a true storybook ending for both Kyle and his team.

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight of the week: Adrian Peterson

CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION

pro athlete - AdrianPetersonRush.jpg

Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!

Our next feature will shine the spotlight on Adrian Peterson, one of only 7 running backs to eclipse 2000 yards rushing in a season.

BEFORE THE INJURY

After a star-studded college career at Oklahoma University, Adrian Peterson came crashing into the NFL in 2007 as the 7th overall pick. Appropriately nicknamed “All Day” by his father because of his endurance and energy, he took the league by storm and immediately established himself as one of the most productive backs in the league.

The then Vikings star posted 4 1000 yard seasons to begin his career, leading the league in rushing in just his second season and making the Pro Bowl each of those 4 seasons.

THE INJURY

2011 began like any other season for the superstar tailback, with AP on pace for another 1000 yard season and Pro Bowl berth, until he took a hit from Redskins safety DeJon Gomes during a December 24 tilt against Washington, causing him to tear both his ACL and MCL, ending his season just 30 yards shy of his 5th straight 1000 yard campaign.

Many didn’t expect Peterson to be ready in time for the 2012 season, with just 9 months to recover.

POST INJURY

That didn’t stop Peterson. “All Day” didn’t just make it back in time to start the season, he ended up starting all 16 games, posting 2097 rushing yards and the league’s Most Valuable Player award. He finished just 8 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s record for rushing yards in a season.

Peterson’s hard work during his rehab not only allowed him to beat his timetable, but allowed him to come back stronger than ever, and gave us one of the most memorable seasons we’ve seen from a running back – a historic campaign that is even more impressive considering the man had just torn his ACL and MCL just 9 months earlier.

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight of the week: Tom Brady

CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION

Motivational Spotlight of the Week – Tom Brady

Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!

Our first feature will be a guy that everyone knows all about, the New England Patriots’ ageless wonder, Tom Brady.

photo - tom brady.jpg

BEFORE THE INJURY

Tom Terrific was already well on his way to a Hall of Fame career prior to the 2007 season, with 3 Super Bowl rings under his belt and a reputation as a big game quarterback but the argument was that he was a game manager for a stacked team, someone who just wasn’t asked to do too much because it wasn’t needed.

The counterargument to that back then was that Brady never truly had weapons to work with, never having paired with a truly elite wide receiver. Then came 2007 and the Patriots went out and got future Hall of Famer Randy Moss along with Wes Welker, who developed into an elite possession receiver and the Patriots offence set multiple records en route to a perfect season before falling in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.

THE INJURY

New England returned mostly the same team in 2008 and were expected to run it back and avenge their Super Bowl defeat, but they lost their leader in the first game of the regular season when Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard ran into Brady’s knee, causing the quarterback to tear his ACL and miss the entire 2008 season.

The Patriots ended up going 11-5 with a backup QB and missed the playoffs in a very top heavy AFC that year, and questions surrounded Brady all offseason not only about whether he could come back, but also if he was a product of the Patriots system since his backup Matt Cassell still had a stellar season in relief.

POST INJURY

You all already know how this one ends, as Tom has continued to be terrific all the way through the ensuing decade. Since his return, he’s only made 9 consecutive Pro Bowls, 2 MVP awards, made 3 All-Pro teams, and made 3 more Super Bowls, winning 2.

The Patriots have continued to be an exemplary organization and their leader has been a big part of why, and Brady has more than answered every question the doubters had on his way to become the consensus greatest quarterback of all time. Brady has more elite seasons post-ACL tear than pre, and is one example of someone who not only came back, but came back stronger than ever.

 

 

pro spotlight

motivational spotlight of the week: OG Anunoby

CONTRIBUTOR: KENT SHEN, XCLEVATION

photo - OG raptors.jpg

Welcome to our motivational spotlight of the week feature, where each week, we will look at one professional athlete that has overcome a big injury and continued to perform at the highest level. We hope that these stories will help inspire you in your own recoveries to come back stronger than ever!

Our feature this week will be on a young up and comer with a ton of potential who not too long ago had a ton of question marks due to an ACL tear in college, the Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby.

BEFORE THE INJURY

For most basketball players, getting selected at #23 overall in the first round of the NBA draft would be a dream come true but for OG Anunoby, it was not where he expected to be at all when he began his 2016 NCAA season at Indiana.

With a skill-set seemingly designed in a lab that’s perfect for the modern NBA, Anunoby began the year flashing the potential to be a potent 3-and-D weapon,  an athletic 2-way wing that all 30 teams would love to have in today’s game, and he was being hyped up accordingly as an early lottery pick in the coming draft.

THE INJURY

On January 18, 2017, just 5 months before the draft where he was destined to go early in, Anunoby tore his ACL during Indiana’s game against Penn State.

The timing for the injury could not have been more brutal, as it not only put a huge question mark on Anunoby’s draft stock and career prospects, but it also derailed a season in which his team started the season expected to make a deep tournament run, causing them to sit out March Madness altogether.

As he worked hard to rehab from the injury, and despite the hit his draft position took, OG still decided to enter the 2017 draft, and the Toronto Raptors took a chance on the athletic wing with the 23rd pick, knowing that they had a shot at a player with top 5 talent.

POST INJURY

The Raptors are certainly happy with their pick now, as OG Anunoby recovered from his injury very quickly and was able to be ready for the Raptors first game of the season against the Chicago Bulls  on October 17th that same year.

It’s a testament to the hard work and determination that Anunoby put into his recovery, that he was able to come back just 9 months after the injury, as well as show a ton of promise all the way throughout his rookie season. Toronto took a huge risk on an amazing talent and player, and it looks like it’s paying off.

 

 

ATHLETE INTERVIEW - January 2019

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Sarah De Jaegher

Sarah De Jaegher is a 37 year old athlete from Belgium, and is often called Sarahita, a little lady with big dreams. She discovered her passion for stand-up-paddleboarding after moving on from being a semi-professional Tango dancer. She loves her career as a primary school teacher, teaching gym classes to young children, as well as training clients as a personal fitness trainer. For an active individual like Sarah, who has been training in gymnastics since young, tearing her ACL and not going able to do what she loved, was difficult mentally and emotionally. However, this experience opened her eyes and changed her perspective in many ways. So much so that she ended up getting a surf-tattoo on her arm to remind her of the obstacles she has conquered, and the new chapters in her life.

In her feature, she shares her story and experience overcoming her ACL injury - the hard times, the good times, lessons learned, and advice for other athletes.

FOLLOW SARAH ON IG: @jufzehraavci


"I started stand-up-paddle boarding - racesup and wavesup - which became my biggest passion ever!”

"I started stand-up-paddle boarding - racesup and wavesup - which became my biggest passion ever!”

Q&A with Sarah

1. Can you share our ACL story?

I had done gymnastics all my youth and became a semi-professional Tango-dancer. But when my relationship with my boyfriend at the time ended, so did my dancing chapter of life.

I went looking for a new passion and ended up at the beach for a childhood dream come true: learning how to surf. Soon I started stand-up-paddle (SUP) boarding - racesup and wavesup - which became my biggest passion ever!

I met my current boyfriend, Fabrice, on the water and he promised to teach me how ski. Another one of my biggest sporty dreams, was learning how to ski or snowboard. I wanted to snowboard, but he convinced me to learn to ski.

So I went with my pro (Fabrice), his daughter and a friend of her’s on a skitrip to the Jura. It was like another dream come true. I felt so happy and as I’m very sportive, and made progress very fast. Maybe too fast, because on the third day, I felt pretty tired and mentioned it. But Fabrice did not know that word. I tried to explain that I wanted to stop, but he overestimated my abilities and convinced me to move on. So on the final ski trail, which was already over my limits (I prefer easy breezy learning where I can take your time), I kept on turning and my ski did not come loose. Then I heard my right leg snap. I knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. Having been involved in sports all my life, I knew my body (I’m a teacher in primary school and teach gym. I also studied as a fitness trainer). So that moment of the crash was like: “PAIN - HELL - NO MORE SPORTS for months…”

At the hospital, I was initially misdiagnosed, but after going to Belgium and having an MRI, I received the verdict: a torn ACL..

“I love my job teaching gym to primary students, and knew immediately that I would not be able to go to school till summer holidays.”

“I love my job teaching gym to primary students, and knew immediately that I would not be able to go to school till summer holidays.”

2. What was the hardest part of the recovery?

2018 did not start as I hoped… and it became harder and harder emotionally.

The hardest period was the beginning phase, right after the injury. I love my job teaching gym to primary students, and knew immediately that I would not be able to go to school till summer holidays. That’s like 5 months away from my job, and I love to work!!!!I had to wait 6 weeks until surgery and I was so scared, because I heard so many stories of bacterial infections and botched surgeries… so I chose a surgeon who is also a sailor at our surf club. That was a good decision and I felt comfortable with him and trusted him. That was very important to me.

After the 6 weeks of pre-revalidation (pre-rehab), it was time for surgery. My mam (mother) went with me, but I was a little disappointed that my boyfriend did not come to visit me… I think he felt guilty for continuing to push me to go on more aggressive ski trails and BAM. He’s a champ in windsurfing, but he’s also a champ in all the sports he is involved in. I’m more like a soul surfer though - typically I’m not interested in pushing myself to extreme limits. I have some goals in life, but I always go for safe. So I thought I started to have doubts about this relationship. But my mam told me, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and if you survive this as a couple, it will bring you closer than ever”. She was right in the end, and our relationship is stronger than ever (I really feel that we can move mountains now together!) Fabrice, his daughter Amelie, and the dog, all took good care of me when I arrived home.

The first week was dominated by pain - a burning pain in my leg. It appears that not everyone has this kind of pain, and it is different for everyone - but every time I lowered my leg, I could compare it with a bucket of liquid fire going through my leg. I cried for 5 days and nights and only lived on water and painkillers. But then my loved ones forced to eat well, good power food. It was over before I knew it, and I was so happy when I finally had the stitches removed. NOW I could take a real shower!!!!! YEAH, because I have always been a shower addict!

It was also very hard to rely on other people, because I have lived alone for some years and became a very independent woman. In the first 8 weeks, I needed a driver if I wanted to go anywhere. I can be stubborn at times, and wanted to do as much as possible, and everything on my own. So I walked like a lot, and I love walking. After 3 weeks, I already took the train to go from Bredene to Bruges, because my mom lives in Bruges. So I did that beautiful walk with two crutches and my brace,  and then with one crutch and my brace, then only with my brace and one day, just like that… I was finally walking again.

Also my physiotherapist was in Bruges, Belgium. He treated me in the past after a car-accident with whiplash, and I decided to stick with him. 

The fact that I was not working made me feel like I was not needed anymore. I have always been a passionate teacher… so I went looking for a new creative hobby. So I started writing in my ACL-diary and making drawings again, like I used to do when I was young.

athlete - sarah de jaegh (drawing).jpg
athlete - sarah de jaegh (real image - drawing).jpg

The first time, I went to the surfclub, there were like major clean waves. It was the start of the season and I knew I could not surf or stand-up paddle (sup) for months. I could not hold my tears in. I also realized that my days in the fitness classes at the gym were over after surgery and I was on my own. No more BBB workouts, no Zumba, no boxing, no more TRX, no challenge, nothing. So my social life at the gym was gone as well…

athlete - sarah de jaegh (run beach).jpg

3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?

My motivation was a deep inner monster, that never gave up.

I went to the store, Decathlon, and bought everything I could to create my own gym at home. Physiotherapy was for deep tissue massage and to learn exercises that I could do at home. I was very disciplined and respected the time, but I tried to stay fit with a program I made for myself - to train the whole body without using force on my bad knee…

I couldn’t dance, run, or surf… but I did push myself on the bike - first a spin bike, and after getting the green light from my surgeon, I went on my bike for a ride outside. That was a fantastic feeling!!!!

After 4 weeks, I was already in the pool having swimming lessons to learn how to swim crawl. It was amazing: I was like drowning but felt so alive!

"Can’t wait for the summertime when I can get back into surfing again”

"Can’t wait for the summertime when I can get back into surfing again”

4 weeks after that, I also went into the Northsea with my stand-up paddleboard (sup). I bought a kajakpaddle and instead of stand up paddling, I did sit-down-paddling! My mam was always my biggest supporter. She stood next to me when I got on the bike in physiotherapy, and she helped me into the waves when I got on my sup for the first time. But also my boyfriend, his daughter and the Maltese dog were a big support during these difficult times. 

One of the ladies of the sup-team was also injured one week after me. In a way, I was fortunate that I was not alone. Stephanie became my true friend and ACL-buddy. But her story was far more severe than mine, because it will be a 3 year revalidation (rehabilitation). 

4) Do you have any tips or tricks for recovery?

I would recommend that everybody keep a journal documenting your progress. Each day is step forward and sometimes it’s in the little things that matter. I counted my steps and wrote down the sports I did, but also the positive things that happened during each day.

Even more than before, I realized how important family and friends are. It also made me realize that happiness is everywhere - it’s hidden in the little things: drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, walking on the beach with that crazy enthusiast little white dog (she made me smile everyday! Alice was my biggest therapist). A dog is a really a big support.

My addiction to the ocean and the sea became even bigger than before. It gave me the power when I needed strength and it gave me calm vibes when I needed a peace of mind. It’s also very good for outdoor swimming if you can swim crawl, walk in the water, and balance on the surfboard: VITAMIN SEA is the message! 

“I love my mam (mother)” // “I went and got a surf-tattoo on my arm. It will remind me of the hard times that I have overcome and the new chapters in life!

“I love my mam (mother)” // “I went and got a surf-tattoo on my arm. It will remind me of the hard times that I have overcome and the new chapters in life!

5) Has this injury changed you in any way?

It has changed me forever…

My legs still don’t feel the same after 9 months, but I have high hopes!

It made me realize the importance of surfing and stand-up-paddling in my life. So I went and got a surf-tattoo on my arm. It will remind me of the hard times that I have overcome and the new chapters in life! 

I learned to be patient as I respected the recovery timelines that were given to me, and did not force anything. I promised myself to follow my instincts and to never let myself be talked into things that I do not feel comfortable with. Now I know my limits. Like if the waves are too big, but it is epic… then I’m sorry, if doesn’t feel right, I won’t go in.

I trust my own instincts.

I fear that my ski-adventure that just begun could be over forever if I make the wrong decisions. There are so many cool sports I love - like skating and surfing and gym. And to risk losing it all by returning to skiing too soon, just ain’t worth it.

So when my boyfriend goes skiing with his daughter Amélie this year, I will go to Lanzarote with my mam. Special thanks to my mam (my big hero), my boyfriend for keeping me in his arms when I was sad, Amelie for the wonderful conversations we had, and the surf sessions together, my little white furry friend for the endless walks together on the beach, my physiotherapist Johan for the perfect treatment, my surgeon Hans for the good surgery, and Stephanie my brace buddy for keeping me motivated throughout the recovery.

Thank you Sarah for sharing your story with athletes across the globe!


 
 
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ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Jennifer Christman

Jenny Christman is a 30-year old female snowboarder and mountain biker hailing from eastern Pennsylvania. By career, she is a physical therapist assistant specializing in out-patient orthopedic and neurological physical therapy.

She is a team snowboarder for Big Boulder Park, one of the best terrain parks on the east coast. Not only that, but she is also a brand ambassador for SheShreds, helping to connect likeminded females in outdoor adventure sports.

She is married to her best friend, Jared, who also loves to shred. Together, they have three furbabies: a chocolate lab named Brody, and two cats, Mazie and Lovie.

FOLLOW JENNY ON IG: @jennerrrrs
PHOTOS COURTESY OF: @jaysquatchman


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Q&A with Jennifer

1) Can you share your ACL story?

On February 3rd, 2018, one of my biggest fears in snowboarding reared it's ugly head on a beautiful, bluebird day at Big Boulder Park. I had been riding strong all morning and we were lapping my favorite trail, named Love.

I had been rotating off the 30 foot jump all morning without an issue, but as soon as the sun rose above the treeline and settled on the jump, conditions changed slightly and the snow became slower than earlier that morning. I didn't think much of it, and dropped in full speed to spin backwards in 360 degree rotation, also known as a "Back 360" which I had landed plenty of times before.

But this time, I didn't have the speed and ended up traveling in the air way too far to the right, coming up short on the choppy landing. I landed hard on my extended left leg, instantly forcing my knee into abrupt hyperextension and severing my ACL. The intense jolt of pain on impact was deafening, but what hurt the most was instantly knowing in my heart that my season was done. I can't begin to describe the heartbreak I felt having had to realize that, but I decided to own it instead of be owned. 


2) What was the hardest part of the recovery?

The hardest part of recovery wasn't the physical aspect. Being a PTA and working in the post-op medical field of rehabilitation, I knew the long process of surgery and healing that was ahead of me. I knew I would be strong enough to overcome the physical challenges before me. Hands down, the hardest part of recovery was the mental aspect and having to accept that I would be missing out on my active lifestyle. Watching all my friends have fun out in the snow was a true heart test, knowing I couldn't be out there having fun as well. It was so difficult to sit on the couch and find other ways to occupy myself when all I wanted to do was be outside doing what I loved to do. My heart ached to be back in the mountains which is, inherently, such a huge part of me and my identity. I was forced to re-identify myself, my relevance, and my self-worth.

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3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?

During my recovery, I stayed motivated by celebrating all the small victories. I took pride in being able to stand and weight bear through my leg again, to ditch the crutches when I was able to. Heck, even carrying my own cup of coffee to the couch called for a awkward, one-legged happy dance. Overcoming every little hurdle was a huge accomplishment, and it fueled me to keep pushing myself to get stronger and progress. I exercised every day, cleaned up my diet, focused on healing and found other outlets to pass my time. I read a ton of books and educated myself on everything I needed to know in order to heal properly. Every little step motivated me and brought me closer to my goals of returning to work, to riding my bike, to lifting weights again, and ultimately, to strapping back into my snowboard.


4) What advice would you share with other athletes?

My advice to other athletes going through the same thing is to stay positive and celebrate every small step. I'd read every article, every book, watch every documentary, read every athlete ACL story you can find, and maintain good relationships with your doctors and physical therapists in order to be one step ahead of the recovery process. Don't be afraid to ask questions. I'd find an outlet to help you heal, whatever that may be. You may find out that you are much more than what you previously identified yourself as. Practice perspectivism and gratitude, stay humble and put in the work because you can come back stronger than ever...  I am living proof of that. 


5) Do you think this experience changed you in any way?

This whole experience did, indeed, change me as a person and for the better. I have learned so much - everything from patience, to humility, to honoring and respecting your body through the healing process. I've learned that you cannot underestimate yourself, your willpower, determination or your heart because if you want it bad enough, there will be no excuses made and you WILL rise above it all. I've learned that nutrition goes hand in hand with healing; that exercising, regaining and maintaining your strength really is a key component in the entire process. Most importantly, I've learned our minds are a fantastic tool and staying positive, adaptable and grateful are the grounding factors in a healthy recovery. You can do anything you put your mind to, and you can overcome any obstacle with the right mindset. Rise above and conquer! 

Thank you Jennifer for sharing your story with athletes across the globe!

SPECIAL THANKS TO JENNIFER’S RECOVERY TEAM:

  • DR. GABRIEL LEWULLIS, ORTHOPAEDIC SURGEON, LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK

  • JOEL NINOS, PHYSIOTHERAPIST, LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK REHABILITATION

  • ERIC SEWALD, PHYSIOTHERAPIST ASSISTANT, LEHIGH VALLEY HEALTH NETWORK REHABILITATION


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Ella Taylor-Tipton

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Ella Taylor-Tipton is a 14 year-old skier from Derbyshire, England and has been skiing since the age of 3. She first starting training at the Swadlincote Ski Centre, and competed in the slalom ski race at the age of 5. By the age of 9, she won her first National Title.

Ella was not the only talented skiier in her family. At the time, both her brothers were big into Freestyle skiing which inspired her to give it a try. She ended up loving freestyle skiing and has never looked back since.

She then went on to compete in Freestyle competitions nationally with her brothers, making podiums. Her first British Freestyle Competition was at Tignes France which was a great experience. The following year, she won a Silver Medal in the Slopestyle for U12’s. The event then moved to Laax, Switzerland where she has competed in Slopestyle, Big Air and Half Pipe over the past few years and won Silver in Big Air U16’s, Bronze in Half Pipe U16’s and Bronze in Slopestyle U16’s.

In 2017, she was the recipient of the Erewash Young Sportswoman of the Year. Ella is on the GB Park & Pipe Pathway in the Home Nations Squad. She is grateful for Snowsport England, Sportsaid, The Nottingham Building Society and her sponsors (The Snow Centre, Afterjam Collective and Odlo) for all their support throughout her skiing and recovering seasons.

Outside of the ski world, she loves music, art, taking her dog for walks, raising money for Charity, spending time with family and friends. “I am just your normal 14 yr old girl who just happens to like an extreme sport.


Ella shares her experience

ON THE INJURY

“Earlier this year I was competing up at Glasgow in Go Big or Go Home, a Freestyle Ski Competition. I took several slams on that day - spinning a 360 rotation and 540 spin, then one slam was brutal; I couldn’t get up of the ground. I screamed with the pain and the tears were trickling down my face. A couple of snowboarders from Kendal Ski Club that I know came and picked me off the slope and placed me at the bottom.

My Mum and Dad came over to me immediately. Mum ran and got some ice for my leg while my Dad helped get my ski boot off. It was so painful, and I couldn’t stop crying. My parents took me to the hospital, leaving my brother Justin to finish his competition.  Once at the hospital, after 15 minutes spent trying to get me out of the car and into a wheelchair, I waited for 40 minutes to get an x-ray, and then another 90 minutes to see the doctor. While waiting another girl from the same competition came in with an injured knee, and we waited together.

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After my X-ray results came back and I saw the nurse, the hospital put me in a straight leg brace and told me that I just had a mild sprain and that if it got worse, I should go to my hospital when I got home.

After a bad night of trying to sleep in a hotel bed, I had a 5 hour drive home from Scotland, with my leg resting on the arm of the passenger seat. Once back home, my Mum took me to the local children’s hospital at Derby, and I waited a while for an x-ray again. I could only get comfortable with my foot resting on the bin in the waiting room. The nurse checked my knee and x-ray results, and then told me to take off the straight leg brace and use crutches instead. She then made an appointment for me at the the knee clinic. There was a 3 week wait...

Luckily my Dad has Private Medical insurance with work and my Mum got me an appointment to see the Consultant 2 days later. I was very nervous when I went to see him; my knee looked like a melon and I could not move quickly or easily, taking 15-20 minutes to get in and out of a car. When I finally got to the waiting room I was feeling sick and scared. Mr Straw was nice, but told me I had to have an MRI - his nurse took me down to the MRI waiting room in a wheelchair and since I was so very scared (never had an MRI before) my Mum changed her clothes and came and sat next to the MRI scanner with me.

After what seemed like a whole day of staying still, I got dressed waited for the nurse to come back with the wheelchair and head home.

The longest 12 hours of my life followed.

My Mum got a call from Mr Straw to say that I had completely ruptured my ACL, and arranged for me to go back and see him, so we could sort out a surgery date. I went back the next day. I felt numb like my whole world had just dropped from under my feet.

While Mr Straw was showing me my MRI photos and explaining everything, all I could do was cry. In only 2 weeks from then, I was supposed to be heading to Portland Oregon to the Windells Camp for a part Scholarship I had been Awarded. I had been so excited and looking forward to skiing Mount Hood. I had my accident on June 23rd, 2018 and started my prehab on June 30th, 2018 with an operation date of August 9th, 2018.

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I got in touch with Windells straight away and they have been awesome. They agreed to defer my Scholarship until I was well enough to take it up. We had to fight with Air France to get my money back which I had raised through Go Fund Me, and I am happy to say that they gave me all back in the form of a voucher to use next time. I got in touch with a Physio from the NHS and there was a 9 week wait to see them, so I paid to go and see a Sports Therapist who had been great with my brother Justin in the past. It was called JL Sports Therapy. Also, through Dad’s insurance, I was able to get to see a private Physio earlier.

Without the support of my physiotherapist, Jake, from JL Sports Therapy, I would not have been ready for my operation. He helped push me, encouraged me, and helped me get my mobility back. My Mum has been wonderful through it all. She held my hand, gave me a shoulder to cry on, was a demand hugger, and constant voice in my head reassuring me and encouraging me.

So, I finally got all my mobility back and was about to lose it all again as the date for the operation drew closer and closer.

The school was accommodating. They relaxed my School uniform so that I could wear trainers and trousers. I got to leave class early to get around on my crutches, but they were only to be used at school to protect my leg and knee. I stopped using my crutches 2 weeks after to accident, thanks to my physiotherapist, Jake. It was good to get off them!

A week before surgery, I went on holidays with the family. Mum and I went for walks and she would go out on the deck with me and help me with my prehab. I used play with equipment in the park to help with my physio - it made it so much more fun. I went out Dolphin watching on a boat with the family and the Dolphins came out to play which was an awesome sight and made me feel extremely happy.

As my holiday ended, my insides were churning. I was trying hard not to be scared but I was. “What if it went wrong?”. All these thoughts went around in my head. Weeks of intense prehab were over, and it was time for the surgery.”

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ON THE SURGERY EXPERIENCE

The morning of August 9th arrived, and I headed off early in the morning to Derby Children’s Hospital with my Mum. I was welcomed on to the ward, sat down in the waiting area as my bed wasn’t yet ready. Not long after my consultant, Mr Straw appeared with the man who would give me my anaesthetic. Mr Straw drew a big arrow on the knee he was going to operate on, but also told me there was a slim possibility that he might have to take ligament from my other leg to make one good new ACL.

I am not the best when it comes to hospitals and I was scared beyond belief. They decided to administer me with a drug that makes the patient dopey and hopefully not remember what has happened. They also decided that I should be put to sleep with gas, and not by injection.

Mum walked with me to the Theatre holding my hand. I was crying uncontrollably. The drug did not seem to be working as well as it should. Mum stayed with me dressed from head to toe in white theatre wear. As the gas mask came closer to my face, I was shaking my head, but it was not long after that I fell into a deep sleep.

I remember waking up with Mum by my side in recovery, holding my hand. It wasn’t until I got back to the Ward that I noticed bandages on both legs. the worse had happened and Mr Straw had to take ligament from both sides. About 2 hours later, l had something to eat. I was managing to move my right leg around, but not my left. Mr Straw came to see me in the Ward after he had finished the operations for the day, and explained that the hamstring graft from my bad leg was too thin, so, he had to take a hamstring graft from my good leg and attached the 2 grafts together to enable me to have a good functioning ACL.

My Dad arrived later to see me. He arrived in good time, I needed the toilet. Trying to lift myself up was so hard. I still felt a little sleepy but between my Dad, the nurse and my Mum, I got into the wheelchair and headed down the corridor. Things did not go well!! I went a terrible grey colour and was sick. Mum managed to find something for me to be sick in but by that time it was too late. Sweat poured down my face and my body was burning. The nurse got me back to bed, took my blood pressure and temperature and got some fans blowing on me to cool me down. Apparently that kind of thing can happen when you have been put to sleep - I didn’t like it!

After what seemed like a long night, morning came. I washed, had something to eat and the Physio arrived. It took about 20 minutes to get me off the bed and onto a pair of crutches, but the Physio was great and helped me start walking. The pain was real, as was the weakness, the nagging doubt of “CAN I DO THIS?!”

But I did. I wanted to be back on my feet despite the pain. Slowly, throughout the morning, I got better and better at getting off my bed and using the crutches. The painkiller was keeping the pain sort of under control but not gone.

It was hard learning to walk with both legs that had both been operated on, which was twice as painful. The Physio came for a second time that day to check on me, go through exercises he wanted me to take home and basically talk me through going up and down stairs.

Home at last and the long journey back begins. Extension exercises.. flexion exercises.. I had two tools that became my best friends: a tin lid for sliding my foot back and forth for flexion, and a TheraBand for lifting my leg.

My quad had shrunk so much that I was scared it would never come back. 3 times a day I went through all my exercises, pushing past the pain as much as I could. On the 5th day I went to see my physiotherapist and he was honest about being worried about me. The walk from the car park to his office is about 100 metres and normally takes a few minutes to get there. The first day, it took me 25 minutes to walk 100 metres. I was out of breath, and my hands were slipping off my crutch handles. I got back to the car with an appointment to see the physio a week later.

I kept on with the exercises, each day getting better. I went to see my Sports Therapist Jake, and he gave me some tips on getting my quads going. There was lots of pinching, stimulation and looking at my leg telling it to move “visualisation”. Plus, he took a crutch away and told me to walk. He had me walking up and down until I got it right. No messing with Jake! Then he took the other one away and told me that if I could walk on one I could walk with none.

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My physio, Guy, was so impressed with the change in me just a week later. I was walking upright for one and had the pain under control. Guy did some manipulation and massage on my knee, I hit his couch a lot over the first few weeks my way of dealing with pain I didn’t like. After another week I was totally off the crutches and Jake gave me some tips for walking without limping.

The two step – works like magic – whenever I felt the limp coming back I would break into the two step either in one place or a travelling two step and the limp would go away.

The day I was able to lift my leg up put the biggest smile on my face. It was about two and a half weeks later after days and days of telling my leg, pulling it up with a band, pinching it, all the work paid off. I was then able to really start and working on the rehab. My Mum has been a big part of my rehab. She has driven me everywhere, and helped me when I’ve had down moments. Sometimes all you need is a Mum hug and it’s easier to find that missing bit a strength to keep going. Mum helped me make my bedroom into a little gym with a variety bands in different strengths, foam rollers, yoga blocks, skateboard, chair, compex machine. We attached bands to my door handles on the wardrobe that I could use to strengthen my upper body. Mum also bought me a full-length mirror that I could use to check my stance when doing my exercises (I’m still using that mirror!). We brought a dining room chair up into my bedroom and I was able to use that for leg extension exercises. I sat on it to use with my skateboard when doing my leg flexion exercises. Each time, I could get my knees back further and further, as a guide when doing my squats, to hold onto when practicing my single leg squats, slowly getting my core and myself stronger to the point where I didn’t need to hold onto the chair.

Recovering 2 legs has been hard but I know it will be worthwhile. It’s been painful, there have been lots of down moments, lots of laughter, high 5 moments - it was an emotional rollercoaster ride.

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Starting back to school was a big thing for me because I was on crutches and needing to keep up with extension and flexion exercises. I had to go into a special part of the school and have work brought to me. If there was ever a driving force in getting me back into mainstream school, that was it! Not being with your friends, feeling isolated (plus it’s just not the same experience a learning in a classroom). The school were great and let me modify my uniform to accommodate different trousers that were easier to wear with my dressings and trainers much better for walking in.

Six weeks later, I saw my Consultant, Mr Straw. He took out the remaining stitches. I cried, as you know I don’t do well in hospitals. Mum held me.

Mr Straw was super happy with my extension and flexion by that time, after all the hard work Guy had done with putting me through my massage and manipulation. Plus, I had started my NHS Physio 2 weeks before my appointment, with Lauren.

My life had become one of constant exercising, physio visits, and checking knee bends, but I made time for the things I love and missed so much: skiing and friends. I went to ski competitions and training nights with my brother, and caught up with my friends. All of this helped keep me going mentally. Each progression leads to my future, so I now go to the gym 3-4 times a week, and the other days workout at home.

The road is a long one but trying to be positive makes it easier! There have been little blips along the way - I took  a stumble coming out of school one night which hurt my knee. It made my knee swell slightly, but my physio checked me out and was happy that it was just an aggravation. All these little things can cause a set back though, and the main thing is to remember that we all have our own pace. Recovery is hard but we have people in our corner to help the journey even when feeling totally alone.

I am lucky that my NGB have helped me with a few sessions with S & C Tom Heeley of Function Jigsaw. He has given me exercises to help make me strong and I am looking forward to when he gives me back to snow exercises to do, Tom and Jake are both keeping an eye on me, helping me achieve my goals. Tom had me working on balance floor work, the watt bike, single leg squats, dead lifts and squats.

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ON ADVICE FOR OTHER ATHLETES

The best advice to others that need the same procedure as me or similar is to take a deep breath on those very first steps, as it’s kind of like abseiling - you need to trust yourself and just do it. Those first steps are very scary and I had no idea how much it would hurt, if it would hurt, or if I could even walk on it. But the physios at the hospital were patient. I had one in front encouraging me and one behind me with a chair in case I needed to sit down.

It is so surprising how the human body works, after a short period of time, walking gets easier as the legs get stronger. Each time I was walking, I was making my legs stronger. With every push up on the crutches, I was making the legs stronger. The leg that Mr Straw stitched was perfect, neat and now I can hardly tell he cut me open. Remember to work both legs in physio - whatever exercise I do on my ACL recovery leg, I do on the other (but not as many reps).

Calf raises and heel drops are great, as is hopping and hamstring curls with a Theraband. Remember to work on balance on both legs and the fact that recovery is a whole- body experience not just the knees and legs. Recovery is twice the work, but the result is worth it.

Also keep plenty of instant ice packs at hand especially when going out for the first few weeks or just after physio.

ON STAYING MOTIVATED AFTER SURGERY

Staying motivated is hard work but my Physio Guy, and Lauren, Sports Therapist Jake and NGB Strength & Conditioning Tom Heeley of Function Jigsaw are really awesome people which motivated me to want to do well for them. The moments when I worked hard and made progress led to seeing them with smiles and high 5s. That mental boosts were amazing. Each time I progressed and get moved, on the mental buzz was the best feeling in the world. It made me feel like I had achieved something. I feel one step closer to going to Windells Camp next summer and finally being able to ski again. That’s my focus. That goal is keeping me motivated: skiing again in the mountains. I want that more than anything else. Putting my skis on, sliding down a mountain, and hitting a snowpark. To do what I love is pure motivation. I can honestly say that I did not realize how much I dearly love skiing until I could no longer do it. I think I got into the habit of skiing because it was expected, but the moment I was told I could not ski, my world literally sank.

When I have been going to watch my brother and friends ski I have been itching to get out there with them. It’s like “Oh My God I miss this”. My accident may have been the worst thing that happened to me, but at the same time, it could of been the best. A flame inside of me is shining brighter than before. The thought of skiing makes me smile more. I can’t wait to try out new tricks and push way past my old boundaries. Every time I start to feel a little down I think about all those words of encouragement from Guy, Lauren, Jake and Tom and just thinking about being back on the mountain surrounded by snow covered peaks and the lovely view of a snowpark I feel better mentally… and the motivation keeps coming.

I could pretend that I am happy and motivated every second of every day, but the lows are real and the physio is relentless. That’s why I am glad that I have good support network to help me when I hit the lows. Wondering if I will ever ride a skateboard, play netball, do gymnastics - all of these things go through my mind. At 14, I can be stroppy and argumentative and sometimes I just want to be like everyone else - hangout with my friends, dance and have fun; which doesn’t help when I am having a low point. Mum puts up with it all, she is always there for me. The mental lows have their counterparts the mental highs which are now (I am glad to say) in my life more and more. This week I was put onto a new programme for teenagers.

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ON DREAMS AFTER MAKING A COMEBACK

My biggest dream after I have fully recovered is getting to a good enough stage to represent my country and be a role model for other young female skiers to look up to. To be someone who hasn’t let injury stop them but ignite them. If I could compete on a World stage, that would be the ultimate dream.

See the world, set goals and achieve them. Make my parents proud and maybe one day have my parents waiting and watching while I ski in the Olympics.

At the moment though my biggest dream is to get back to sport and back on skis and then be allowed to hit the snowpark. Dreams are all about benchmarks. Set one, achieve one and then set another.

It’s called a dream staircase and each step takes me higher to the next level until the day I reach the top of my dreams.

 Thank you Ella for sharing your story with athletes across the globe!


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Katelyn Aguilar

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Katelyn Aguilar is a seventeen year old athlete and is currently in junior high school in the US. She plays soccer and is a center forward for her school, as well as for her travel team, u18 Richmond Kickers Gold Pride. Katelyn started playing soccer at the age of five when her dad shared his love for the game with her.

She has dreams of playing Division 1 at the University of Virginia and becoming an immigration lawyer!

FOLLOW HER ON IG: @k8lynaguilar


Q&A with Katelyn

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

I've torn my ACL twice and both stories are rather short so I'll share both.

My first ACL tear happened during my freshman year, only one week after making my varsity high school team. I was playing in a soccer tournament at a turf field complex - I was running to save the ball from going out of bounds and did a pull back to save it. As I planted my foot I started to pivot and my cleat got stuck in the turf. I had partially torn my ACL and used a hamstring graft to repair my ACL.

My second ACL tear was about a year and a half after my surgery. I went to Portugal with my travel soccer team in the summer of 2018. It was the last 10 minutes of the first half in our very first game being in Portugal. I was running to receive a pass from my teammate and I hadn't even gotten the ball yet and was already on the ground. A girl on the opposing team came from behind and hit my right knee outward as it was planted. I didn't play for the rest of the trip and after returning back from Portugal I had my second ACL surgery on my right knee. This time my medial meniscus was torn as well and I went with the patellar tendon graft.

The ACL reconstruction with the hamstring was definitely less painful than with the patellar tendon graft, which caused constant aches when I bent the knee for too long. With the hamstring graft, I did not experience that at all.

2) What went through your mind when you first tore your ACL?

Honestly, I don't really remember what exactly I thought. I do remember being disappointed in myself for it happening and for letting everyone down. I remember being upset because my parents had to pay for another surgery just a year later (the first surgery cost $5,600 USD and the second surgery cost nearly $7,000 USD after insurance). Other than that I was pretty numb to it and in denial about the fact that I even tore it again up until my surgery day. I tried my very best to not even think about it. It was summer and I wanted more than anything to just be happy and stress free. 

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3) What was the hardest part of the recovery experience?

The hardest part about my experience was not being able to do what I loved - knowing I was capable of doing so, but my body not allowing me to so. Four days after my second ACL surgery I had my first physical therapy session and had to do leg lifts. It was definitely one of the hardest things ever. I tried so hard to lift my leg from of the table and it just wouldn't happen - something I didn't experience my first time around when I had the hamstring graft. That day I had my first of many breakdowns, but had to understand that the feeling was temporary and that I would soon overcome it. The second time around was easier mentally, but definitely not physically. Going through it the second time, I know when I can push myself and I know when to stop. I know that I can persevere and get through it. I also know how much harder I have to work this time around. I now know and understand how crucial the recovery process is and that it shouldn't be rushed. I'm just much more educated on it making it mentally much easier.

4) What advice would you share with other athletes going through the same obstacles?

Advice I would share with any other athletes going through this is to surround yourself with positivity and to ALWAYS do your exercises at home. No one can want it more than you. If you don't work for it and get results you didn't want there is no one to blame but yourself! You have to take control and responsibility of your injury because only you are capable of making it better - no one can do it for you.

5) Has this experience changed you in any way?

This experience has changed me as a person for sure. As cliche as it sounds, I truly believe that I am so much stronger and put much more effort towards things I want because it definitely will pay off. I know what I am capable of and know that I can strive to be greater no matter what is holding me down.

Thank you Katelyn for sharing your story with athletes across the globe!


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Julianna Balsells

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Julianna Balsells, 22-years old, firmly believes that human potential is limitless.

She recently finished her degree in business engineering and is a sports enthusiast from Guatemala. Sports have been a great part of her life ever since she was a little girl, and they have helped shape her character in numerous ways. She was a competitive gymnast for 10 years and after retiring at the age of 15, she went on to practice a variety of sports including track and field, soccer, basketball, softball, and played as an outside hitter in the Guatemalan volleyball team for 3 years.

Later on, she found her love for calisthenics and functional training. She loves all kinds of movement and is passionate about overcoming the challenges found in sports. For her, sports are a source of incredible transformation and growth, and have been a major part of her daily life since she can remember.

FOLLOW HER ON IG: @juliebalsells


Q&A with Julianna

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

October 4th, 2018. It was a typical day for me, waking up early and getting to the gym at 6 am to practice calisthenics. That day, I was attempting a new move called “360”, due to the fact that you let go of a high bar, make a full 360 degree turn in the air and grab on to the bar again. It was my third day practicing this move, and I felt confident about it, since I was used to performing flips and turns in the air. I swung my body into the air, but turned too slowly. I did not fully complete the 360 turn, so my feet hit the ground before I could grab on to the bar in the air. My right leg got caught in between 2 mats on the floor while my body was still spinning, and all my weight came down to my knee, which collapsed under the great pressure. Next thing I know, I feel a horrible pain in my knee and I fall to the floor.

I remember feeling about 15 seconds of intense, horrible pain. I then proceeded to bend and flex my knee a few times, and then thought to myself “whew, that was a close one, I think I didn’t break anything”. I stood up, put some ice on it for a while, and kept on training my upper body. After a while, when my body got cold after the training, my knee started hurting a lot. I had trouble walking and even standing for the next days, but even though many people tried to get me to see the doctor, I convinced myself that it was just a little sprain and it would get better after a few days. I didn’t want to give in to an injury and I wanted to appear strong. I knew that if I went to the doctor, he would tell me to rest from my training, which is the worst thing you could say to an athlete. I kept on training during 2 more weeks, doing low impact exercises that did not involve my legs. However, after the 2 weeks were up, my knee was still very swollen and I could not flex or bend it completely, so I finally went to the doctor.

I took my MRI and X-ray exams, and when my doctor called me to tell me the results, I was stunned. A completely torn ACL and a rupture in both my medial and lateral meniscus. What did this mean? Surgery and many months of rest and physical therapy. Due to the kind of tear in the medial meniscus, I had to be on crutches during 6 weeks, applying no pressure to my knee. It was so much to take in, and I immediately burst into tears. Great change was coming my way.I got operated the week later I heard the news, and today I am 8 weeks post op. These last months have been more challenging than anything I have gone through, but they have also been so incredibly motivating and empowering. I am walking without crutches now and slowly but surely regaining my strength. Each step in recovery is a great achievement, and I am ready to keep getting better and come back even stronger!

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2) What was the hardest part of the recovery?

The toughest part of my recovery has definitely been the inner battle with myself and my mindset. I can surely say that the pain was something I could handle, but the mental lows that came along with the injury were the most challenging. What affected me the most was feeling vulnerable and weak, and thinking about the many things I would not be able to do during my recovery. Not being able to walk, move without pain, reach my things without asking for help, or even sleep through an entire night was so frustrating to me. I have always been someone who loves to move, loves to be active and loves to engage in outdoor activities. Movement and exercise are a MUST for me and are a part of my everyday life. Therefore, having to miss out on what I am most passionate about was heartbreaking.

I love training in the mornings because it puts me in a good mood for the rest of my day. It is a time where I can remove all stress, problems and negative energy. Therefore, not being able to train meant messing up my morning routine and my good mentality. The first few weeks were the toughest. Adding up the pain, the lying around my house all day, and not being able to attend normal social events resulted in emotional swings throughout my days. I tried to feel happy, motivated and cheerful most of the times, but all of a sudden, I would feel great sadness. These mood swings made me even more frustrated and being immobilized meant that I could not rely on my trainings and activities that put me in a good mood. However, this got better with time. The great amount of change coming to my life was tougher than I thought, and it is so important to find good mechanisms to cope with it and put yourself in a good mentality all day.

3) How did you get involved in calisthenics?

Sports have been a great part of my life and I remember performing flips and being in competitions since I was a little girl. I have practiced a variety of sports, from gymnastics to track and field, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. I retired from competitive sports at the age of 18 and enrolled in ordinary gyms, and switched to weight training and attending different cardio and functional classes- spinning, dance, HIIT, etc. I loved my training sessions and had such a good time, but there were times I missed flipping in the air, doing handstands, and competing with other people. I missed pushing my limits.

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One day, I chatted with a guy (who is now my boyfriend) at the gym, and he started telling me about how he practiced calisthenics and what the sport was about. I love engaging in new sports, so of course I was very interested and accepted his invitation to train with him in a calisthenics gym. I went into the calisthenics gym not knowing exactly what to expect, and came out loving it. Due to the fact that I had been a gymnast for 10 years, many calisthenics moves came naturally to me and reminded me of my times of glory. I was able to practice new and exciting skills, and push limits I didn´t know I had. I felt free.

So of course, I kept on going with him to train occasionally, and started also learning skills to train on my own. What I loved the most about calisthenics was seeing progress every single day. In calisthenics, each day is an incredible accomplishment and you figure out things about yourself you didn’t know. Calisthenics not only helped me obtain strength and endurance, but it helped me gain control of my mind and body, and achieve new goals. I started liking it so much, I enrolled in one of the calisthenics gyms and started training the sport most days of the week. I can say it has revived a part of me that was long forgotten and has made me progress and grow in such amazing ways.

 

4) What advice would you like to share with other athletes recovering from an ACL injury?

My biggest advice to you would be to create a supportive, positive and empowering bubble around yourself. Surround yourself by loving and caring people, celebrate the small wins, and figure out what works for you in order to keep a positive state of mind. I now know that without my family, boyfriend and loved ones helping me and looking out for me, I would have had a much, much tougher time. Surround yourself with people that are willing to help you out as much as possible, that are willing to uplift your spirits when you are having a bad time, and that are pushing you to get better every single day. Do not be afraid to ask for help or to rely on others. These people are what keep me moving and who have made my recovery easier. They have helped me so much, and I am extremely grateful for having them in my life and in my recovery.

Secondly, remember that SMALL WINS MATTER. Even if it is being able to put your sock on by yourself, bending your knee 1 degree more, moving from your bed to the living room alone, CELEBRATE IT. In this injury, every single thing is progress. You have to find beauty in your accomplishments, no matter how small they are, because each little step added together results in getting closer to a full recovery.

Photo credit:    @dmckniight

Photo credit: @dmckniight

Third, figure out a mechanism that sets a positive atmosphere for you every day. This injury sucks. This injury makes you question if you are ever going to get better. It is tough, and therefore you have to make it better with the right attitude. Figure out what works for you. For me, it is listening to motivational videos every single morning and writing in my journal about my daily accomplishments, goals and events that make me happy. This helps me remind me of everything that is right in my world, and if I have something negative to say, it stays in my journal and not on my mind. This mechanism has done wonders for me, but whether it is watching your favorite movies, talking to your friends in the morning, singing at the top of your lungs, whatever it is, find something that helps you get into a positive state of mind.

5) How did you prepare yourself for ACL surgery - mentally and physically?

My surgery was one week after I found out about my injury. My way to prepare for the surgery was cramming as much information into my brain about my injury as I could. Everything was happening so quickly, I did not have much time to think things through but knowing as much as I could about what was happening in my body, what exactly the doctor was going to do in the surgery, precautions, tips and motivating comebacks helped me so much. It gave me peace of mind and helped me be aware of all I had to do to have a good recovery. As I arrived at the hospital on the morning of my surgery, I was nervous, but I knew exactly what was going to happen in the operation room, what I needed to do once I woke up, and what could possibly go wrong. I believe it is so important to ask questions, read a lot and think through the process before you get operated.


6) What is are your goals/dreams after making a comeback?

My biggest goal is to make a full recovery, get back to the strength and skills I had before my injury, and come back even stronger. I want to use this injury experience to help people going through it and to motivate more people into seeing the beauty of recovery. I want to inspire people from all over the world to fall in love with movement and sports, to fall in love with growth and transformation, and to let them know that it is possible to come back after suffering through a fall. I want to keep improving and growing as an athlete, but I also want to help people who want to do the same. If I could go back in time, I would have stopped my injury from happening 1,000,000 times over, but having gone through it, I have learned and gotten through so much that I want to use this experience for the best.

Thank you Julianna for sharing your story and in inspiring athletes from across the globe!

SPECIAL THANKS TO Julianna’s RECOVERY TEAM:

  • DR. HUMBERTO KEPFER, SURGEON

  • FISIOACTIVA, Physiotherapy


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Cameron Brosnihan

Athlete Interview Photo - Cameron 2.jpg

Cameron Brosnihan is one of the youngest athletes to tear his ACL. Remarkably, he tore his ACL at the age of 9 playing football, and then made a successful comeback, leading his team to win the Eastern Championship! 

About me: I am almost 11 now. I am athletic and smart. My favorite things are football and math.  

1) Can you share your ACL story? 

I was playing football and was at safety and I was blitzing. I took a step to try and hit the quarterback but while my foot was planted I got hit from behind and it twisted and I fell hard. My ACL snapped. 

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

I wanted to go back to football for the next season.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

Physical Therapy was the hardest part. It can be boring and long. 

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Don’t give up and keep on trying!

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

Yes, it makes me think that I can do anything and I also have a different perspective of people in wheelchairs and on crutches.

 Read Cameron's inspiring ACL story told from the perspective of his mother


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Kendall Duncan

Kendall Duncan has been dealing with knee injuries throughout her 4-year high school career. She started playing basketball at the age of 5 and fell in love with the game and has been playing ever since. For her entire life, her dream has been to play women's college basketball - however her knee had other plans. She recently had her 3rd knee surgery and ACL reconstruction, but is still fighting the fight!

Athlete Interview Photo - Kendall Duncan.jpg

1) Can you share your ACL story?

I first tore my knee up playing basketball freshman year of high school. I tore my meniscus, cracked femur, shattered knee cap, and had horrible bone bruises. That led me into having 2 major knee surgeries. I was out for 13 months for recovery. So I missed my freshman & sophomore year of playing basketball. I was good to go by my junior year. Although I tweaked my knee in a game that season, but didn’t do anything about it. My knee eventually got worse throughout the summer & wasn’t feeling it’s best by the time senior year rolled in. I was elevated with a partially torn ACL. My doc said I could play the season through the pain or have surgery to go ahead & fix it.

Of course I chose to I play my entire senior b-ball season with a torn ACL in a knee brace and I dominated, leading my team to state playoffs. It was definitely challenging, mentally and physically, I would be aggravated with my knee not being able to do certain stuff in practice & living in pain the entire season because as the season progressed, my leg was getting worse. I stuck it out being the strong willed, determined athlete I am. I actually had the best season despite the leg, we had a great season along with my family, team, and coaches supporting me the whole way. I finally had ACL reconstruction one month after the season. My ACL by then was absolutely shredded.

I’m now 10 weeks post op & I’m hanging in here during the hardest recovery ever since my knee has been through so much in 3 knee surgeries. People think I’m crazy for going through of all this and still wanting to play the game of basketball. I’ve proved a lot of people wrong, I do this and continue to rehab because who I am and for the love of the game. I still have people who look at me and are stunned that of what I did my senior year playing through the pain with a torn ACL, I did it because I was strong enough and for the game.

Athlete Interview Photo - Kendall Duncan 3.jpg

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

Hardest part to me is being able to stay strong and think positive when you feel like your world is falling apart. You have to be able to stay motivated through these recoveries. The question of “Why Me?” is always constant on my mind, like why did this happen in the first place to me. The mental side of this injury is definitely harder than physical sometimes.

There are times where I want to give up because I’ve been through so much and I’m getting sick of it. But I have to stop myself because there’s no way I will ever give up, I just have to get through the hard parts. Also, my entire life I have been wanting to play college basketball, I only played 2 years of high school basketball due to my knee, but I trained & played hard to make sure to make up for it. I had the chance to play and opportunities from some small schools, but I knew after my senior season, I had to get my leg fixed and put my basketball shoes up for a while. I think that’s the hardest part I’m struggling with now is if I’ll play basketball again. I have days now where I don’t want to do anything and just have hard “mental days”, where it is hard to think positive about everything because all I want to do is be better and free of pain, but it takes time.

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3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

Being an athlete that has been through so much, reminds me that I can do anything I put my mind to. I know that God has a plan despite everything that has happened to me. It has been tough, this last surgery has been the worst recovery so far. It's mind-boggling when you're on your 3rd recovery & all you want to do is be that athlete you once were and get back on that court.

I always tell myself that I can do anything because I’m a strong woman and I have to get through this to get back to my active life. People act like they know what I’ve been through, but they don’t. You have to go through it in order to understand.

4) What advice would you share with other athletes on the road to recovery?

Advice I would give is to just know it will get hard and challenging to the point where you might want to give up but do not. It’s not worth it. You’re an athlete, you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s a long recovery, but you just have to stay on top of your rehab and think positive. I know injuries are not fun at all. I’ve been dealing with one for 4 years and counting now. There the worst things ever in my eyes for athletes.

I’ve lived through a comeback to playing basketball after 13 months of rehab from my first 2 surgeries and it was the best feeling ever. The struggle and the adversity is all so worth it. No athlete is truly tested until they’ve endured an injury and come out on the other side stronger than ever. The comeback is always stronger and better than your setback. You have to be at your strongest when you feel at your weakest. Remember to celebrate your small victories as well! :)

5) Do you think these experiences have changed you as a person?

Definitely has changed me as a person. These obstacles and journey has made me so much stronger and realize that things never go the way you planned, but it’s the way you respond and look at the situation. You can either let it take over you by not doing anything, or take control and go through the storm to get to the top again. I’ve been through a lot the past few years, and I know that I’m not the same person as I was when I first got injured. It has also made me appreciate things in life more. I never knew how easy and quick the game could be taken from me. I was an all star basketball player and never knew this would happen to me. I appreciate things more in life now and don’t take anything for granted.


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

JP Herrera

JP Herrera is currently a pilot. Before getting into aviation, he spent 5 years as an army lientenant. He has been playing soccer since the age of 3.

Athlete Interview Photo - JP Herrera rl.jpg

1) Can you share your ACL story?

I was playing soccer (on a turf field) - I just had a good and successful season (league promotion, cup trophy) and during my first post-season match I hyper-extended my left knee trying to cut a pass. The ER doctor told me it was just a patella subluxation and that I would be back in 30 days. It actually took me 90 days, and the first turn I took, I heard the pop and experienced the worst pain in my entire life. It's like a whole movie of your sports life starts going through your mind, and you see it all going away from you. It can be scary for people whose life is vastly based on playing sports.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The period between the ACL injury and the surgery - the uncertainty of when/if I was getting the surgery, and being sent back and forth to general physicians and orthopedic doctors. The first week post-operation was tough; relying on other people (regardless of how much they love you) to help with the most basic hygiene tasks can be totally dejecting and depressing.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

Perceiving the whole process as just another challenge in life that several people have overcome, rather than the one limitation that would forever change everything my life was built upon (sports).

4) What tips/advice would you share with other athletes on the road to recovery?

  • Do not dwell on the problem or injury
  • Choose to focus only on what you have control over, which is the recovery
  • Ensure your metabolism is working at its highest capacity
  • Make sure you provide your body with every tool required to heal the graft as soon as possible
  • Steadily push your rehab up to discomfort, but never to the pain limit.

5) Do you think these experiences have changed you as a person?

Absolutely. It implacably reminds us of how fragile our bodies, lifestyles and confidence are. And every time our parameters are lowered, we tend to feel blessed with the little things in life. It puts things in a whole new perspective.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Issiah Evans

Issiah Evans tore his ACL at the young age of 9, and battled through the lengthy recovery. Passionate about football and basketball, Issiah was motivated to get back onto the playing field. His determination and hard work paid off, as he made an extraordinary comeback.

Issiah Evans (left) with his basketball teammate

Issiah Evans (left) with his basketball teammate

1) Can you share your ACL story?

I messed up my knee when I was 9 in a football game. Someone was grabbing on my legs then his teammate came behind me and pushed me. I got back up and finished the game out. Then when I went home it felt fine until the next morning I tried to get out of my bed and couldn’t walk . I went to the doctors and they told me I sprained my knee. Then a year later I tore my ACL when I was 10. It was the first game of the basketball season. I tried to jump up for a rebound then my knee went out on me. I fell and I tried to stand back up but I couldn’t. I was in so much pain.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part of my experience is knowing I couldn’t come back and play that year. It was also hard watching my friends play basketball and other sports while I couldn’t do anything. There were times when I just wanted to quit every time I would try to do something . I was falling apart, and then eventually stopped coming to any sport events.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

I knew that I would be able to play sports again but I had to work to get back to it. I just wanted to get back in my sports the next season.

4) What tips/advice would you share with other athletes on the road to recovery?

Don’t give it up even when it gets rough

5) Do you think these experiences have changed you as a person?

Yes, it makes me think I can get through anything.

 

Read about Issiah's ACL injury experience told from the perspective of his mother

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Ben Hargrave

Ben Hargrave is a lift engineer, who has always been into sports, especially football.

Athlete Interview Photo - Ben Hargrave.jpg

1) Can you share your ACL story?

I first tore my right ACL in 2008, during a football match - no challenge, just a twist and a pop. I went to the hospital the next day but nothing was diagnosed, as I have large quads and calves. No manual tests flagged up a torn ACL and I was told to rest. After the swelling went down and I tried to use the knee, but it kept giving way. I was diagnosed after the MRI but it was 14 months after initial injury. I had the operation using an ACL hamstring autograft, and had a medial and lateral menisecomy including bucket handle tear. Rehab was hard - I was in a brace for 8 weeks and it was really tough breaking down scar tissue but I got there in the end.

It was only a few games in after first knee surgery that I felt the pop in my left knee. In fact I think it was the first competitive game. I did not feel the same pain as before but I know something wasn't right. I went to get an MRI again and it was brought up as major partial tear to PCL. I was told this would be OK and just carried on - I went off to play football shortly after, but it did not feel right and the knee did give way a bit from time to time. It wasn't until I took a blow to the knee in a challenge when it totally went. I tried to play the next week and lasted literally seconds - I received the ball from kick off and the knee gave way. I was then diagnosed with complete rupture of ACL and medial meniscus tear, and I had the operation around 2015. I was really worried. I thought I knew what to expect, but rehab was super aggressive with no brace.

Athlete Interview Photo - Ben Hargrave 2.jpg

On the first competitive game back after the second surgery I was super confident. I'd waited a year after surgery, became fit, and was looking forward to the season as it was a pre-season friendly.  Unfortunately during that game I broke my fibula in a challenge, subsequently needing a plate and 7 screws. That was a pain! But rehab for that was easier than ACL rehab, so it all good. This last season I've played the most games out of the whole squad at 25 games, scored 5 goals and enjoyed it. I've also been snowboarding this year for the first time after being advised not to ski. It was a great trip, and I made a full comeback with no knee issues whatsoever!

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

I think the hardest part is the mental side of returning to competitive sport. For me, it was subconscious but to the point where I tore my other ACL, probably putting more pressure on it protecting the operated knee. In fact, I found it easier playing sports after having ACL reconstruction on both knees, as I no longer favoured/overcompensated on one of the knees. The brace I wore from the first knee surgery was tossed in the trash, and I just moved on from it. After the first surgery, I always had the injury in the back of my mind when playing, but with both knees done, I found I didn't think about either.

Athlete Interview Photo - Ben Hargrave 3.jpg

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

I've always stayed motivated by thinking, "I'm only here once". I've never really contemplated not having ACLs reconstructed as I want to do the things I love. Things might be hard and painful rehab-wise but I've always thought it's only a matter of time before it will be over, and then down the line it'll all be good.

4) What tips/advice would you share with other athletes on the road to recovery?

I would advise people to stay positive, and to get as fit as possible before surgery; really build the quads and calves.

5) Do you think these experiences have changed you as a person?

I feel like my injuries are part of me; I love my scars, as they are like tattoos that tell a story, I was stopped at 28 by the ACL injury, which was probably my prime time. It was disappointing but after fighting through the ACL injuries, I have a greater appreciation for being able to run and be active.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Amy Baker

Amy Baker is passionate about soccer, and has battled through 4 ACL reconstructions.

Athlete Interview Photo - Amy Baker.jpg

1) Can you share the story of how you tore your ACL multiple times?

I remember the first time as clear as day, little did I know it was the start of the hardest journey I’ve possibly ever had to deal with. The first time I completely ruptured my ACL was a game against a local team. I remember receiving the ball and had already gone to make my next movement into space when a player from the opposing team completely took me out with an horrendous challenge. The second time was unfortunate, I was 2 minutes into my first game back when I slipped in some mud on the pitch, I knew straight away I’d tore my ACL on my other knee as soon as I went down. The third and fourth happened 2 games back after recovering from my previous reconstructions. I jumped to head he ball and landed really bad on my leading leg - again, I knew the pain by now really well and was absolutely devastated.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

My surgeon telling me I’d never play again. I got to a stage where getting out of bed was difficult, socializing was difficult and even speaking/watching football became a really struggle. It made me hit rock bottom and I did go through a stage where I struggled with every day life. It has a bigger effect on me than most people knew about. Probably only my mum was aware.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

I kept thinking after each reconstruction there is no way it will happen again if I do my rehab right, I’ve never known anyone to be this unlucky. I just had to keep nailing rehab and working hard really, I would never have imagined it would have happened 4 times - it’s unbelievable really.

 

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Never give up. It’s an easy cheesy line to say but that has been the key for me. I’m currently still working back from my last op in February and I’m feeling really good and positive. I know my own body and my knees now and this is the best they have felt. I’m hopefully looking to start back training in August and fingers crossed I’ll get the luck and the break I deserve after what has been 5 years of hell.

5) Do you think these experiences changed you as a person? 

Most definitely. I was never a player who turned up for training and matches and didn’t give 110%. I was the player who no matter how many miles I had to walk to get to training or no matter what happened I would never miss a session. Football has been my life since I started playing since the age of 6 and I’m not prepared to give up yet. It has definitely made me more mature, I know sometimes no matter how hard you work, it doesn’t always work out. Patience is key. If I could turn back time I wish none of this ever happened however it has and has taught me some valuable lessons along the way at a young age which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

 

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Holly Aiston

Holly Aiston is a 21 year old Exercise physiology student, and hopes to one day open her own clinic and help others with knee and other injuries. She is a sports fanatic, and especially loves AFL football.

Athlete Interview Photo - Holly Ainston.jpg

1) Can you share your ACL story?

So I tore my ACL when I was 16 - I was playing basketball in phys ed at school! My dad actually didn’t believe me when I told him that something was wrong! So it took me about a month to get him to allow me to have an MRI - we got it back and I had completely torn my ACL partially torn my PCL, fractured my femur and I had some pretty crazy bore bruising! Dad didn’t want to get me surgery because he didn’t want to pay for it, so a few months later my mum took me to see a public specialist to get me on a wait list. I waited 9 months to have my knee operated on. Within this time I continued to play volleyball for my school which was great but I wasn’t able to be active playing other sports that I would usually play. I fell into some depression and developed an eating disorder, as a way to control the way I was feeling. Anyways, once I had surgery I got back to volleyball 4 months post-op and started playing netball again a year after. Last year (aged 20), I played my first year of Australian rules football and I truly fell in love with the game! I’ve grown up watching it, my brother was named after a player but as a girl I never got to play. In my preliminary final last year, I collapsed, the exact same way I did with my first incident. I knew instantly that I had torn my ACL again and walked myself off to the bench. I luckily got myself private health insurance at the start of the year in case anything like this was to happen again! I had surgery 2 weeks later, I am now 9 months post op to the day! I have struggled from time to time with this knee but have gone back to volleyball for the season and will get back to football next year.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

I think the hardest part was not being able to play sports that you love, that allow you to have an outlet and also then not having the same connection with all the friends you play with socially it is hard too!

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

I have kept thinking about how good it’s going to be to get back out on the field and play again. I’ve also kept motivated by knowing that I’m making myself stronger both mentally and physically with every day I keep moving forwards

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Positivity is 100% the key, you will have good days and bad and on the bad ones you need to be around people who can create positivity when you are struggling. I have an amazing family that looked after me when I struggled and I try and create as much positivity around a crappy situation, I try and use it as an incentive to improve myself beyond what I was before my injury!

5) Do you think these experiences changed you as a person?

I really do, my injuries have broken my heart but they have helped me become more resilient and have shaped my life. Although these experiences have been really tough, I believe that they have helped define who I am today. I am a much more resilient person and I am also studying to be an exercise physiologist where I hope to one day set up my own rehab centre to help those with knee and all injuries have a positive space to heal! It’s been a rollercoaster! Although it has sucked in many ways I am grateful for the experience! 

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Tasha Baber

Tasha Baber is a 33-year old power-lifter who loves exercise and has lost over 80 lbs in the past two years. She does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitively, but tore her ACL as a result of a very unfortunate trampoline accident. 

Athlete Interview Photo - Tasha Baber.jpg

1) Can you share your ACL story?

It's not even a good story, which almost makes it worse. For someone who does Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I engage in a ton of "risky" behavior frequently. My ACL tear happened while I was at a trampoline park, but not while I was doing anything fun. I was standing watching my 6 year old play when a teenager came flying off the trampoline. He kicked me in the side of my knee and must have hit the angle just right because I went straight down. I knew it was bad when my first thought was "I need a doctor." In the end it would take three different doctors before I convinced one to give me an MRI. Initially my torn ACL was misdiagnosed as a sprained MCL. Apparently the muscles in my leg was holding my knee stable.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

For me, the surgery was the scariest part. I handle pain well and I don't mind hard work, but I hate being out of control. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to tell the anesthesiologist or the nurses if you are scared....I sure let them know!!! I needed some help once I came home, and asking for help can be difficult...but again, it is worth it and nothing to be ashamed about. Being away from my MMA gym was hard and losing weights on my lifts was hard, but in a different way. I can make up those goals and get back and become better. I don't mind backsliding a little as a result of surgery and I don't mind working hard to regain that ground.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

I had to let go of goals I had before surgery and sort of reset. If you accept your injured state as your new baseline, then you can set goals that are realistic to where you are. It was hard to go from training to compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to working on getting my knee to bend enough to be able to pedal a stationary bike, but that goal was just as (maybe more) valuable.

Athlete Interview Photo - Tasher Baber 2.jpg

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

1) DO NOT DO WHAT I DID and eat EVERYTHING in sight. I gained almost 30 lbs from weeks 0-8 and then had to spend weeks 9-16 taking those pounds back off. Either meal prep pre-op, or stock up on protein bars and powder, or something....anything but eating a 3 lbs bag of Swedish Fish your first week home and then just going downhill from there.

2) Take it easy, kind of. I wanted to push and push and get back to things. My PT did an amazing job of pushing me while keeping my graft safe. You will get back to your life faster if you take the early days a little slower. Do your PT exercises as much as you can, obviously, but make sure you have a PT you trust who understands your goals. I was able to explain to my PT the movements that were important to BJJ and that I needed back and she was able to tailor my protocol to make sure I met those goals. Make sure your PT is familiar and uses a good return to sports testing protocol for graduation from PT.

3) Do interview a few surgeons. Ask them what population they work with. Ask them about grafts, tunnel placement, retear rates, ask them WHATEVER you want. Read research....real research, not what someone posts online (but read that too.) Focus on YOUR sport and YOUR body. The "gold standard" for a football player and the "gold standard" for you may not be the same. But....once you've chosen your doctor, trust them. You picked them for a reason.

5) Do you think these experiences changed you as a person?

I suppose. I still get a little angry when people say "I'm so glad this happened to me, I learned how strong I really am." I'd already fought and won against obesity and anxiety (well, anxiety and I will always fight, but the gym helps me with that). I already knew I was strong. But I guess it did show me that my love of BJJ and fitness wasn't a phase or a fad. It showed me I love my sports and I can't wait to compete again. It also showed me I have some pretty amazing people in my life; my gym teammates, coaches and personal trainer, my friends and especially my husband who went above and beyond consistently during my recovery. So while I hope I'm in the group of people who only tear their ACL once, I also know if it happens again I can handle it just fine.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Olivia Hicks

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.

Athlete Interview Photo - Liv Hicks.jpg

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.

Athlete Interview Photo - Liv Hicks 3.jpg

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.

Athlete Interview Photo - Liv Hicks 2.jpg

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.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Andy Rowe

Andy Rowe is a 39-year old Assistant Chief of a 100% volunteer firefighter department, and is dedicated to serving the community. He is also a private pilot and was previously in the army. Unlike many others, Andy did not tear his ACL playing sports, but rather while fighting flames when part of the roof of a house collapsed on his knee. He is currently 13 weeks post-op and making real progress.

Andy (left) while on firefighter duties

Andy (left) while on firefighter duties

1) Can you share your ACL story? 

The short version of my injury was while fighting house fire, the structure collapsed, and a portion of the roof hit me above the knee. After putting out what landed on me, I crawled out from under and walked back to our fire truck. A couple steps was all it took for me to realize that something was really wrong. I destroyed my ACL, tore my Lateral Meniscus, MCL, LCL, fractured the Tibial Plateau, and there were a couple of bone contusions.

In the past few years, I was doing 4-5 5k runs a year, and flying around as a private pilot. Suddenly, all of that was gone. At my 12 week checkup, he examined me and said, “when I see you in 8 weeks, we’ll talk about when you can go back to firefighting. You are healing great, you can start jogging in a few weeks, and I have no doubt you will fully recover". I am putting in a lot of tough work at PT 3x weekly, doing the exercises as requested and fighting to stay positive. Two days ago, I took my plane up for the first time since February. Recovery is possible for anyone!

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest for me was the loss of independence. Not being able to walk, drive, fly, or be “normal.”

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

The days I went to physical therapy and didn’t progress were hard. I was so focused on making the next degrees, that when fatigue, or swelling kept me the same or even went backwards it bothered me. Luckily I had been tracking the over all progress. I could see though I may be a few degrees less that two days ago, over time it is much better. So I focused on the long term wins. The overall progress.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Remember that this is all temporary. When in pain the first week, or frustrated about not being able to walk at week three, know that the weeks will pass, normal will come back. Patience and hard work on recovery are your friends.

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

I have realized so many things that I took for granted. Standing in the shower, walking outside, chasing my kids. This experience has made me realize how many things I have been taking for granted.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Camille Lyu

Camille Lyu is a high school athlete with a passion for volleyball and soccer. She is known for her determination - once she sets her mind on a goal, she will do whatever it takes to achieve it. Despite being only one week post-op, she hopes to inspire others through sharing her experience.

Camille (left) going in for a kick

Camille (left) going in for a kick

1) Can you share your ACL story? 

It happened during a soccer game when I was the striker. I took a shot and felt my knee twist in the air, followed by a sharp pain. I ended up scoring the goal but went down immediately as a result of the pain.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part of this experience is both mentally and physically. It was my senior soccer season in high school and I wanted a grand last season as probably most athletes would want in their last season. The injury happened two weeks before a tournament and 4 weeks before another travel tournament. Having to be sidelined and watch but not being able to help was so hard. Physically surgery brought everything back to 0. I prehabed rly well and almost everything went back to normal. Waking up from the surgery and everything was back to 0. But it’s definitely improving everyday.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

I’m still at a very early stage of the process. But the small victories motivate me! Knowing that each progress is gonna bring me one step closer to being normal and being back on the field. Focusing what I can do instead of what I can’t makes me feel so much better every time.

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

I panicked so much before the surgery and totally freaked out. But now looking back it was really not as scary as it seemed. For anyone who is panicking for the surgery, just remember you are going to be fine! It will be over before you know it! Although I’m still at the early stage post op. But I’m trying to always stay positive, everyone says the rehab process is so long but time really passes fast!

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

Again I’m still at the early stage of the process. But the ACL experience define made me much more aware of how my body functions and pay more attention to that. It also makes me cherish more the little things that we took for granted. There are a lot of people out there that are in a much worse position than us and do not even have a chance of recovery.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Christine Joy

Christine Joy is a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Instructor, and Certified Yoga Alliance Teacher. She tore her ACL from an unfortunate fall, and is currently 2 weeks post op. She looks forward to getting back to training her clients and supporting her health and wellness goals, and can't wait to get back to teaching yoga, her passion. 

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

I have been playing Tennis since the age of 7, and was a cheeleader and powerlifter since the age of 15. Being involved in sports has always been part of my lifestyle. Never in a million years did I ever think I would sustain an injury! I relied on staying healthy, and building strong muscles to avoid any injury. I had always prided myself in having healthy knees and joints and never breaking a bone! As I got older, I noticed that my knees seemed to always be more unstable as compared to my younger years. Doing deep squats or plyometric jumps began to feel more strenuous and there were many times that I felt my knee buckling. But, I ignored the “different” feeling in my knees... specifically my right knee.

About 3 months ago, I was napping and awoke to use the bathroom. It didn’t register in my brain that my right leg fell asleep. As I took a step, my right knee buckled and hyperextended and I landed on the floor. As I stood up, I noticed weakness but nothing else. I drove to the Yoga studio and when I arrived, I noticed swelling and lack of stability in my knee, so I decided to go home to RICE my knee.

2 weeks later, I decided to see the doctor, who initially assessed that I may have torn my MCL. So, he ordered an MRI to go to if I didn’t see improvement in 2 more weeks. Well, those 2 weeks came an went with no improvement. So, I went for the MRI. After my primary doc got the results, he recommended I go to see an Orthopedic Surgeon. I waited 3 more weeks for an appointment. Upon his assessment and evaluation, he recommended ACL reconstruction. He gave me some time to think about it and make the decision. At that point in the game, I was tired of not feeling “whole”. My knee had always been strong and served me well and I didn’t want to continue without surgery. It was difficult to do personal training and to provide my clients without the best of me. Teaching Yoga became more difficult. I thought about it and decided the surgery would be best. My orthopaedic surgeon gave me the choice of allograft vs. autograft. So I decided on using my own tendons for the procedure. 3 weeks later, I was scheduled for surgery. Results from surgery showed a torn ACL. The OS attempted to pull the ACL to test for strength and he was able to pull it back very easily as it was hanging on by a thread

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2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part of this experience, even to this day, is the mental battle - I fought and still fight. I’m a very independent person and it's hard to watch my husband and kids take care of me. The pain was equally hard. I attempted 3 days with no Percocet as I weighed the pros and cons. Eventually, I decided that the pain was so fatiguing I needed rest. I really wanted to avoid the pain medication but am glad I was able to use it as a tool to help me in my first week post-op.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

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Staying motivated has always been easy for me... but it hasn’t always come easy after surgery. Every day I move 1 step closer to progress. Listening to others who shared their experiences helped greatly. I saw that I wasn’t alone and found strength in others. Knowing that everyday, the likelihood of moving forward helped me to push and to continue to push through. To never give up. My motivation also lies in getting back to training clients and teaching yoga and helping make a positive impact in their lives. I want to get back to seeing their progress and motivating them to reach their goals...encouraging other Yogi’s to continue to dig deep in finding their authentic self through Yoga.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Tips? Stay positive! The pain after surgery is normal and after climbing that mountain, you’ll see it was worth the climb! Stay healthy through the process. Eat nutritious food, drink lots of water, but most importantly LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Rest when it needs rest! Follow the Dr.’s orders and be patient! (this is still hard for me to do at times)

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

All I know to embrace is change! It’s the only constant I know. I never thought that this experience would change me... but it has! I’m grateful that now I can put pain and overcoming difficult physical challenges in perspective. I haven’t lost a limb, and I’m thankfully not fighting for life battling cancer. But this for sure, I am diagnosed as a high functioning Bipolar. My mental illness has never stopped me from reaching goals and milestones. I am determined to not let this physical ailment get in my way either!!

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Afroze Zubair

Afroze Zubair is a 37-year old fitness fanatic born and bred in the deserts of United Arab Emirates. She was a lover of sports from the tender age of 6, and is currently training in Crossfit and boxing.

 

1) Can you share your ACL story?

I tore my left ACL Nov 2017, during a training session in Crossfit - I was jumping over 3 steppers from side-to-side. The ground was uneven. The moment i landed into the first jump, my left knee snapped. And it has been a tremendous struggle since then.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The worst part is that not many people around you are going to understand what you are going through. It is hard accepting reality of the situation. I was 1 week away from my International Debut representing my country as the first female boxer of the country. I was training extensively for a full year, and that one second that I tore my ACL changed everything. I had to accept that my dream was a week away, and that it would no longer become a reality. I had to accept that my entire year spent in the pain and strain of the training was lost. I had to accept that I might never go back to the same level of training that I was at. 

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

I let myself cry enough to make sure I would be over all this. I kept reading stories of other athletes and gradually it bought my mind back where I was able to understand that I was not the only one in this pain.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

We need to accept that everything that happens in life is planned for the best. Even if its a set back, no matter how hard it hurts, you will make through it. You will emerge a winner. Just don't look back.

5) Do you think these experiences changed you as a person?

Definitely - it humbled me. I lost a lot of unnecessary pride that had set into me as a sports person. I'm a much better person now. This injury didn't just hurt my knee, it created a hole in my heart; a hole, that made me realize that nothing is forever to stay. I take each day as it comes. I don't feel sorry for my losses. If you take it as a loss, it remains a loss forever. What's meant to be is meant to be. Just let it come and pass. If you are meant to be a winner, nobody but you, yourself, can stop you from it.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Mariame Younsi

Mariame Younsi is a 20-year old medical student who has been practicing Taekwondo since the age of 8.

1) Can you share your ACL story?

After practicing Taekwondo for many years, I decided to take a break from it. I guess that led me to lose some of my power, as I ended up tearing my ACL shortly after. It happened when I was skiing (it was just recreational). I lost balance and my leg did a "valgus internal rotation". That led to me feeling so unstable that I had to stop skiing. I didn't experience too much pain or swelling when it happened. It felt quite normal but I noticed that my ROM was affected (i.e. no full extension and no flexion).

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part was the thought that I might never practice Taekwondo again. But then I met people who had also torn their ACL and come back, and they assured me that it would be possible for me to do the same.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

My motivation was this: whenever I felt pain or fear, I kept in mind that if other people have overcome this, then I certainly can as well. Now I'm 1 week post-op and its already getting better.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Listen to your body when it tells you to move forward or to hold back. Believe in yourself and believe that the human body can do marvels. Find something that really motivates you, and stick to it. For me, that was the thought of being able to practice Taekwondo again.

5) Do you think these experiences changed you as a person?

This experience has changed me for sure. I've always loved my body and the ability and strength of moving freely. I was always terrified to lose that, and when I did (temporarily), it allowed me to see the other side of life, and my personality. I believe I am stronger now, to face anything in the future. 

 

 
 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Djonas Castillo

Djonas Castillo is a basketball junkie. He fell in love with the game of basketball because of Michael Jordan and been playing since the age of 10. When he was a kid growing up, he would play every morning before and after school. 6 months has passed since his ACL reconstruction, and he now plays basketball 3-4 times per week.

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

I still remember like it was just yesterday and the memories of it feel like it happened in slow-mo. I was playing basketball - it was the third quarter, and I was having a fantastic game so far. There were only 2 guys in front of us, I was thinking of pulling up a three but the guy in front of me was small, so I thought I could just go past him. I tried to side-step but when I was pivoting, I felt a pop and my right knee just gave out. I felt like my basketball life flashed right before my eyes.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part of the experience was the acceptance phase. I went through denial - I was trying to avoid doctors because I didn't want to hear bad news. I kept on forcing myself to believe that it is only a minor injury because I never had any major injury in the past. Then went I through the anger phase thinking that I should have done this instead of that, and a lot of other similar thoughts. Then I felt a little depressed because suddenly, I am was not active anymore. I couldn't run, I couldn't shoot hoops. Then came the hardest part of accepting my fate, and telling myself that I had to move on.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

Success stories from others of going back to sport from an ACL injury helped to motivate me. I have a friend who had an injury that much worse than mine, but managed to come back to the sport better than ever. Plus success stories from other athletes or people who had suffered the same fate as I did and I am grateful of the group I found on Facebook which my friend recommended, to get myself motivated. And it did help me a lot.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

My advice is be patient and do not compare yourself to others. Everyone heals differently, and each one of us has a different pain tolerance. Listen to your body during physiotherapy sessions or while doing home exercises. Celebrate little milestones on your road to recovery.

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

This experience made me appreciate all the little things or details and made me more patient than ever. Looking back at the game that I tore my ACL, I came in to the game late. When I arrived to the gym, my coach asked me to come in right away in the middle of the 1st quarter. I was still cold, stiff and never had any stretching and had not warmed myself up. I do think that contributed to my injury. If I did stretching and biking for a few minutes, the result could have been different.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Hana Benetkova

Hana Benetkova is a 27 year old physiotherapist from Central Europe. She loves gymnastics, nature, laughter and beer.

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

I injured my knee the first time a few seconds after I did my first somersault of my life on small trampoline. I had cast for a few weeks, and did some rehab. For long time, my knee was feeling fine. I was 14 years old at the time. After several years, my knee started making a weird sound and the tibia repositioned when bending with internal rotation after full flexion. I couldn't figure out why. Then at age 24, I twisted my knee twice (doing a somersault with 360 twist). The first time I injured the knee, I felt fine after a few days. But the second time, I couldn't bear full weight or achieve full extension. I knew something was wrong - at the time, I thought it may have just been a meniscus tear. I got an MRI, and results confirmed a torn medial meniscus, as well as a stretched MCL and ACL. After 2 months post injury, I underwent arthroscopy and medial menisectomy. After this surgery, the doctor told me that ACL was stretched and not functioning well. I did rehab for 2 months and in the end I underwent ACL reconstruction using a patellar tendon graft. I was in a brace for about 7 weeks non-weight bearing. It really sucked. I was absolutely dependent on my family. I started rehab and at the 2 month mark, I started swimming. At 3 months, I started jogging. Finally, after 9 months, I started with gymnastics again. It was tough because my teammates wanted me to get back earlier, but I knew it would be worth waiting a bit longer.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

Hardest part of all of this was probably the initial period after ACL reconstruction. I was completely non-weightbearing and locked in brace (0-60°), unable to take care about myself. It was winter, and some weeks I felt useless. I felt cut off the world...

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

Luckily, my recovery did not have any complications. I don't remember much time that I did not have motivation. But the very beginning was tough. When I stared weight-bearing again, I had a weird tibia twisting sensation every step, which I did not have pre-surgery. This was discouraging. But luckily by 3 months post-op, it went away. I think the most motivational factor was the aim to get back to gymnastics. I knew that I would have to be 100% prepared and feel good before getting back to gymnastics. A big motivation was my supportive family and some teammates which had previously been through the same injury/surgery.

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Stay focused on your aim. Take you time, it counts. While are you starting again with playing your sport, do it like you are doing it for the first time in your life. Be patient and safe, but if you feel really comfortable, give things a try - you will be later suprised, that you and your knee can do it :) 

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

Of course! The injury, surgery and everything else involved changed me. I'm more careful, and I listen to my body more. Since I'm a physiotherapist, I now have a better understanding of how patients feel, what they are going through, and what kind of thoughts are running through their mind. I think I am now in a better position to motivate and encourage them.

 

 
 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Chloe Whiteside

Chloe Whiteside is 24 years old and from Australia. Her passion is playing netball, which led to her ACL injury. Besides sports, she loves to read and that has broadened her horizon to being an author. Be sure to check our her website: https://authorcrenee.wixsite.com/authorcrenee

1) Can you share your ACL story? 

My ACL story isn’t a really exciting one. I injured my knee while playing netball at the end of February this year. It so happened that I was travelling overseas the week after and I had to quickly begin walking again. I thought it was a sprain so naturally I just pushed the pain aside and really enjoyed my holiday. Ireland is a beautiful country and two weeks into my holiday, I slipped on mud and landed on my injured knee. Fast forward four weeks and I finally got some real answers as to what I done to my knee. Grade 3 ACL torn. So in other words, my ACL is completely torn. 

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part about this injury would be having a permanent bend in my knee as I can’t straighten it the last 10 degrees. The strain my back and hips are getting from walking with a limp. I can’t really do every day activities without strain or thinking about my next move. 

3) What is you most concerned about prior to having the ACL reconstruction?

My biggest concerns prior to surgery would be my recovery. Will I have any complications? Will I be able to have full motion of my knee after surgery? I know my knee won’t ever be the same again but I’d like to relearn how to walk and truly live again. 

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

The things that have kept me motivated is my family and friends. They push me to strive each and everyday that I wait for surgery. Knowing that I’ll get my life back, makes me excited for my future to become a prison guard and I would love to keep up with my future kids. 

Chloe's thoughts on having a positive attitude:

I personally think a positive attitude towards ACL injuries is a huge key factor. You need to accept yourself and your injury. Yes it’s put a damper on your life but at the end of the day, your life isn’t over. It’s proven that athletes get back to their sports and they never give up. You shouldn’t either. 

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Melissa Chan

Melissa Chan is a finance professional with a passion for Muay Thai. She started it out of curiosity but soon fell in love with the sport and began competing as an amateur until her knee injury occurred. Her knee has now recovered and she is excited to get back into the sport.


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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

It was just bad luck. On Friday the 13th, in the final minute of a clinching drill, I got swept and fell hard on my left leg. I felt my knee pop out and back in as I fell. It all happened so quickly that I was on the ground before I knew it. I went to ER and was referred to the orthopedic clinic where my surgeon confirmed that I had torn my ACL and MCL.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

 Maintaining a strong and positive mentality throughout the recovery was definitely the most difficult part of the experience. Not only is the recovery period a long journey, but it is a tough one. When my body was healthy and strong, it was so much easier physically and mentally to push myself to my limits when I was training. But after sustaining the knee injury, it was a totally different story. I felt so broken and incapable. I was overly cautious in every movement. I was scared. As someone who is prone to doubting myself, I wondered if my knee could ever be back to 100%. At one point I even considered the possibility that my surgery failed. So even though I was highly motivated and positive in the first few months after injury, my mentality eventually weakened as time passed and my motivation fell apart. Once the negative emotions started taking over, it really affected my commitment to the rehab protocol.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

 I’ll be very honest here – I lost my motivation halfway through my rehab post-surgery.

Initially, when I was undergoing the physio treatment prior to surgery I worked hard and pushed myself as I could still envision myself getting back into the sport. When people asked if I would ever go back in the ring and compete again, I didn’t even have to think twice about it and I would immediately say, “Of course!” My kru (in Muay Thai, “kru” means teacher), who I am truly grateful for, continued sending me videos of the weekly fighter’s training sessions. I still remember when he sent me the first training session after I was injured and tearing up as I watched my teammates.

But the road to recovery is a long one and I found it difficult to stay motivated throughout the whole way. Comparatively, physio was easier pre-surgery and I worked hard to rebuild the strength my leg lost. However, it was much more difficult post-surgery. Not only was it discouraging to see my leg lose its strength and range again, I also got sick of doing the same physio routine. I gradually lost the discipline I once had as an athlete and despite being ashamed of my laziness, I also felt weak and useless at the same time. Looking back, this was my lowest point in the journey as I had almost given up on myself and my dreams to get back in the ring.

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My wakeup call happened in my 9 month post-op appointment with my surgeon. By that point I was absurd enough to even doubt the success of my surgery (sorry doc). But my surgeon tested the graft and informed me that it was strong – actually, it was my leg that was still weak as a result of my lack of commitment to physio. I felt like I snapped out of it in that moment. I was so relieved because my surgery was successful, but I also felt guilty and ashamed that I had given up on myself, and consequently, let down the people who supported and believed in me.

Now I am at 14 months post-surgery and I am much stronger after being more consistent with my physio. I have been back in the gym for about a month now and I am slowly getting back into the sport by hitting the bag and getting a feel of what I am capable of. My confidence in the recovery of my knee has improved so much and I can envision myself getting back in the ring.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Firstly, understand that the recovery process will be long and you must be patient. You are looking at about 9 months to 1 year of physio post-op so you should look at it as a journey with milestones along the way. Just like in training, there will be bad days and good days. Except you may find the “bad” days to be overwhelming especially during the initial phase of the recovery where nothing you do seems to work. But believe in yourself, work hard, and commit yourself to a routine because that is the only way your knee will recover faster and better.

Talk to people who have been through the process. By sharing their personal experience, you will be better informed about what it will be like and hopefully, be encouraged by their stories and support as they personally know what you are going through. Likewise, surround yourself with people who are supportive and keep you motivated throughout the recovery process.

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Lastly, it is very important to have an experienced physiotherapist guide you throughout the recovery. My first physiotherapist tore both her ACLs and completely understood what I was going through. She made sure I understood the treatment protocol, the exercises, and was very involved throughout my pre-surgery rehab. She went above and beyond to give me all the attention and care I needed (e.g. during the busiest month at work, she’d work after the clinic’s closing hours so she could see me). With this level of medical care, I was highly motivated to work hard in my recovery.

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

This experience has definitely widened my perspective on things. Unpredictable things can and will happen in life, but how you deal with it is the most important part. As much as I regret losing motivation at a critical point which delayed my full recovery, I choose to view this experience in its entirety and learn from it. I’m glad I was able to find the drive to pick myself back up again and I’m excited to finally return to sports.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Donna McNutt

Donna McNutt is a mom, teacher and someone who loves being active. Her two main sports are mountain biking and road biking, though there are other activities that I thoroughly enjoy as well. Being an active person, I not only work out but read on a daily basis.

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

I've had 3 ACL tears...

Tear #1: it occurred in college 1984. It was partial at that time, since arthroscopic was fairly new, they only cleaned out my knee. I wanted to try PT, to see if we can stabilize it. It worked! Though sliding for softball stopped! That was my right knee.

Tear #2 and 3
Mountain biking- both times, threw my left leg out to break a fall. Complete tears both times that required surgery! First surgery used a cadaver- a hamstring and second time an Achilles. The first surgery was 10 years ago, the second 9 months ago.

In PT, a few months ago, my right knee started causing me issues. Sharp pain and occasionally it buckled! Had an MRI, yes in 1984, it was partially torn, now there are zero fibers. So, I do not have an ACL. Last left knee surgery they shaved my meniscus and in the right knee there are also tears in medial and lateral meniscus!

It is inhibiting me from trail running and playing tennis. Doing more road biking, and planning to have this surgery in the winter.

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2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part is the long recovery!!!!

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

 I want to continue to be active, therefore I needed to push through the pain to rehabilitate the surgical knee.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

My fitness is back on the bike, for road riding. I sadly have limits, not due to the surgical knee but the other one. My advice is to persevere and make necessary modifications when necessary.

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

I am cautious and modifying some of my cross training. It has made me appreciate that I am healthy, and if this is the worse thing I have to deal with, then I’m fortunate. It’s a setback, not anything too serious. It has provided me with insight how injuries and illnesses impact a person’s life and makes them depressed. Though it does pass, it is real.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Kylie Thibodeau-Harvey

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Kylie Thibodeau-Harvey is a 26-year old competitive athlete and online entrepreneur. Her main focus is teaching people to think differently to improve the quality of their lives. 

1) Can you share your ACL story? 

I play ultimate frisbee and I tore my ACL running in towards the disc. It was a bad throw so I laid out in the opposite direction as the disc and at the same time someone stepped on my foot. I tore my ACL and I had 2 full meniscus tears. I am now 9.5 months post op and I am hoping to play in a frisbee tournament in a couple weeks.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

My background is in personal development so this is definitely an interesting experience for me. I know everything happens for a reason so the first thing that I had to do was accept the injury. I got the call from my doctor and he told me what happened. I cried for 5 minutes and then just accepted it and asked myself what can I do now? I joined ACL Facebook groups to ask for help and get advice, and help others in the community. I have met some amazing people through this journey. This was simply an experience. This was an experience that is in place to teach you many life lessons.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

I stayed motivated by staying focused on each small goal. I have a larger goal to go back and play, but it was important to stay focused on the small wins each and every day. It wasn't a state of being motivated - it was staying consistent with my daily activities. For any success in life, you have to do the things you don't feel like doing, and doing it consistently. There was never a night when I felt like doing my PT but I just knew I had to do it to get better. Focusing on the small wins helps you get through this process.

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Advice I would give to others going through this process...

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  • Don't compare your chapter 1 to someone else's chapter 20. Comparison is the thief of joy. Everyone's experience is different and there is no one going through the exact recovery as you. Some people have just a torn ACL, other's have meniscus issues, PCL, LCL, patella issues. Everyone's surgeon is different so you have different protocols. Everyone's PT is different so you have different exercises unique to you. You have to stay in your own lane and focus on your individual journey.
  • Focus on what you can do and not what you can't do. Trust the process. You will eventually get better with time and consistency. This process teaches you the importance of having faith and believing in something you can't see.
  • Consistency is the key to success in anything in life. This process teaches you the power in being consistent in any area of your life. If you are consistent with your PT, you will see results. Keep going until then!
  • Ask for help. This is a process that is important to ask for help when you need it. It is a humbling experience for sure. If you don't ask for help you will get frustrated quickly. Make sure you have someone to help you out the first couple months you are post op. I don't know what I would've done without help from you my sister or my boyfriend during that time.
  • Listen to your body. You have to listen to your body, don't push yourself and do too much. This is a powerful lesson in life. When you are an athlete, you have to listen to your body or else you will hurt yourself. To take this a step forward, listen to your body and follow your intuition. Your intuition is so powerful. You know what you can and can't do - just listen to that still small voice inside and do what feels right.
  • Be patient. Patience is a virtue.
  • Be grateful. Focus on what you are grateful for every day. The more good you look for the more good you find.
  • Be grateful for every step of this process. When you are focused on what you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears. Write down every day your small victories and what you are grateful for. This helps you stay positive during the process. Growth comes when you get comfortable being uncomfortable. During PT I would use positive affirmations to get me through it. 
    • "Lean into discomfort"
    • "Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better"
    • "I can do this"
    • "I am strong"
    • "I am tough
    • "I am powerful"

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

This experience has changed all of these areas of my life.

 

 
 

athlete interviews

Annette Grandolfo

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Hello ACL Warriors I’m Annette, fellow ACL survivor.  I’m currently 36 and working in Special Education.  My career background began as a paraprofessional (classroom aide and 1-on-1 aid) in a school specifically teaching children with special needs.  I have worked with kiddos ranging in age from 3 years old to 22 years old and assist with a variety of disabilities. 

I have gone through college pursuing a degree in Psychology.   Beginning my Master’s program was really something of an impulse purchase.  I knew I wanted to continue working with the special needs population and Applied Behavior Analysis instantly seemed like the right fit.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about the field but the quick explanation of ABA is that it’s a series of skills for professionals and parents to manage challenging behaviors.  It’s a “bag of tools” to determine why challenging behaviors occur (e.g. hitting, running away or refusing to follow directions) and the most effective, evidence-based method of addressing those behaviors.  This field also teaches alternative behaviors and functional living skills.  For example, every time a child is asked to brush their teeth they tantrum for 12 minutes. We might learn that the child doesn’t like the taste of the toothpaste.  So we would teach the child to first say, “I don’t like that taste” and we’d explore alternative flavors until one was found to be “acceptable” to the child.  Then, we would observe how the child brushes their teeth and teach to them brush as we should (accuracy, thorough, pressure, etc.).  

I currently work for a mental health company that provides services to children diagnosed with a disability, in their own homes.  We teach a variety of functional communication, self-help and daily living skills that fit each child’s individual needs.

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What's your ACL story?

My ACL story is probably fairly common.  I’m an athlete “light”…if there is such a thing.  I’ve been playing volleyball since I was in middle school and haven’t looked back.  I’m not skilled enough to have played in college or in serious competition.  So, my local gym has some “rec” nights where they’d open the gym for a few hours and we’d play.  I’d been playing in this setting for roughly 2 months and gaining some of the definition back to my body after being out of the sport for a bit.  

April 20, 2016: I jumped to spike, landed, and something popped.  It felt like a rubber band snap and I heard it.  Internally.  If you’ve ever been underwater and cracked your knuckles, it was that sound.  It didn’t hurt at all.  I remember thinking something pretty big was going to be wrong with my knee and was just waiting for searing pain.  This next part always makes me giggle when I think of it.  I stopped, turned around on the floor and slowly sat on the floor.  I lay on my left side clutching my left knee repeating the word “NO, NO NO”.  Not screaming or anything, just “nope, something is wrong”.  After a minute, I began to cry.  My teammates helped me to the side and I had to fill out the paperwork from the gym.  

Someone pulled my car to the door and I got in and drove home.  I immediately called my mom and told her I was hurt and something was really wrong with my knee.  Still, nothing ever hurt.  It was really unstable and my kneecap hurt if I pushed slightly on it (don’t do that, it was stupid…)

I actually went to the ER the next day. They put me in the lovely immobilizer brace.  X-rays were clear of fractures and obvious major damage.  I was referred to the local orthopedic surgeon and scheduled an appointment.  The MRI confirmed a complete tear of the left ACL with LCL strain.  There was no break to the bone (which can happen), and the meniscus looked to be in good condition based on the MRI.  

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So, this seems to be where some docs vary a bit in their treatment.  My surgeon told me I had 2 options right from the start.  

(1) Don’t operate at all.  Many people choose not to have surgery or live in areas where surgery is not an option.  The knee will learn to stabilize itself as best as possible, but I would likely continue to have some difficulties.  He would recommend PT and support braces.  The biggest surprise to me was that he estimated that I would need a full knee replacement within 10 years if I chose no ACL repair.  The lack of support was likely to continue to damage the joint.

(2) Reconstruct the ACL with my own tissue (patella tendon graft) or donor tissue from a cadaver.  My surgeon said if it were him, he’d opt for donor tissue and that was my first thought, but I went home to do some research.  I had lost some initial flexion and he wanted that back before surgery.  I was sent for 2 weeks of pre-op PT and could give him my decision at that follow up visit.

So, I dug through all my old anatomy textbooks and learned that the patella tendon isn’t a huge structure.  They would harvest about 1/3 of the tendon from the center of the same knee and that would be my new ACL.  I opted for donor tissue because I didn’t like the idea of needing to rehab 2 areas of my knee.  I had this idea in my head of competing progress and I just wanted to focus on one thing.  I didn’t want to have any additional weakness, setbacks or lasting effects.  I wanted to set myself up for the most success I could and I felt this was the best choice.  

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When I went to one of the final pre-op PT appointments, I wanted to know what I would need to do when I returned home after surgery.  What exercises should I be doing in those 2-weeks?  My physical therapist instructed me to do quad contractions and leg raises as soon as I could after surgery.  Do them as pain, stiffness, weakness would tolerate and build up to more.  Those would help jumpstart my recovery once I officially began recovery PT after surgery.

Surgery was a few weeks later and I’ve never loved ice more. I named my ice machine “BOB”.  Yes, you’ve read that right.  Battery Operated Boyfriend.  Truly heels over head in love with this gizmo.  I had to rearrange the couch a bit so I had some support behind the knee joint.  The first few days were the toughest for me.  I had a nerve block so my entire left leg was dead from groin to toes.  I had some trouble adjusting to being non-weightbearing.  Once I could feel my foot, I was still 95% non-weightbearing and would leave my foot on the ground.  It was so heavy with all the wraps, the brace and the ice machine bag….no way I could hold it up for long.  

Jumping ahead a bit, 2-weeks later I had stitches removed.  

 

What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part for me was adjusting my expectations.  My surgeon was upfront with me that it would be a long recovery (8-12 months). I just kept thinking “I heal fast, I’ll be fine in 5”…..I was not.  Every ounce of that year-long recovery was accurate and maddening.  At first, progress was pretty quick - at least for me it was.  I gained full flexion and extension pretty quickly, but I was surprised at what a hit my quads took.  I was only out for 2 weeks and he didn’t even operate on my quad…how could it possibly be this weak?!?!

Honestly, I found most of the recovery pretty fascinating.  When I had no balance standing on a cement floor, I’d giggle.  The twinges of pain when my physical therapist would use her torture devices to break up any scar tissue, I’d wince, but with fascination. How can such a tiny woman inflict so much pain?! 

The bit of frustration I found was that I felt that I was discharged too soon from PT.  I knew how to run and jump, but not with these spare parts as my ACL, and not after a major surgery like this.  I wish I would have pushed harder a year ago, so that I wouldn’t be back in PT now.  

I’m working with a personal trainer at my gym to get my health back on track and help with my knee.  There’s some instability and I don’t think I know enough to do it alone.  So I asked for help.

 

How did you stay motivated?

Not being motivated wasn’t an option for me.  Recovery wasn’t an option.  Physical therapy and “homework” were part of the package…so I did it.  I never felt like skipping PT but there were certainly days I wished I scheduled later in the day.  

Going back to mud runs was a big motivator for me (Tough Mudder 2017!). I didn’t do all the obstacles.  Hardly any in fact.  Even before this injury I’m pretty good at being able to identify my physical limits.  I know I cannot cross monkey bars without my feet on the floor or climb on top of them. I know I will not be able to scale an 8-foot wall without a boost from a step or a support beam.   

Doing mud runs after knee surgery was no different.  Well maybe a little.  Now, it seems as though I’m a chicken and afraid of re-injury.  I am overly cautious to avoid another year-long recovery. 

Mental hurdle here….I need to learn how to resign to the fact that I may tear my ACL again, or some other injury.  Go down the slides, jump in the mud and stop being afraid.  Being afraid leads to try to plan for every slip, fall and jump anytime in life and that’s just not realistic.  I can’t plan for EVERYTHING.  We all have that touch of OCD, we want to control things and I’m certainly no different.  THIS is my biggest mental hurdle to overcome in this entire journey.

My inner nerd was also a big motivator.  While reading up about what to expect with surgery and recovery I found a few people who had documented their experience and decided to do the same.  I wanted to be able to look back, when things were really hard, and see how far I’d come.  No better way to do that than with data.  I tried keeping pain log, food log, exercises before PT, and meds.  

 

What advice would you give other athletes on the road to recovery?

Remember the cliché phrase, “everyone’s surgeon and recovery are different”.  Some people are up and walking without crutches days after surgery and some take months to ditch the aids.  Hinged braces vs. straight immobilizer brace and how long to use it. Take a shower or keep it dry?  

  • Do as much “homework” before surgery as you can.  Don’t wait until the day before or after and post in a social media group asking “I just had ACL surgery, what now?”  You should know some of those answers beforehand.
  • Try out different spots in your house because you’ll be spending several days in that spot. Recliner, couch, bed...heck, even the floor.  
  • You’ll probably need some help in the first few days to carry a drink for you, maybe bring food and even help move your leg if you have a nerve block.  
  • Fill your prescriptions prior to surgery so you can just go home and crash.  Ask for nausea meds.  Sometimes pain meds can make you sick, even if you’ve had them before. This is not the time to try a mad sprint for the toilet.   
  • The first couple of days you might be sleeping a lot but what do you want in your “spare time”. Bring your book, iPad, trashy magazines…whatever you need.  Set up your space prior to surgery.  
  • Inquire about an ice machine during rehab.  Remember BOB? I never thought of it before but it was a lifesaver.  Being strapped to an ice pack 24/7 was great.  I never had to worry about replacing packs in the freezer or remembering to do it.  I’d save the cold water from the bucket and drink it later.  Seriously, ask about an ice machine.  
  • Physical therapists have a recovery protocol they follow (which varies slightly) to determine when you get to run, jump, drive, etc.  Make your expectations clear that you want to be able to perform a specific skill before you’re discharged.  
  • If you feel you’re not getting answers or results from your treatment team (surgeon, physical therapist, pain management, etc.) SPEAK UP.  Nobody knows how you’re feeling unless you tell them.  You have to advocate for yourself.

 

Do you think this experience has change you as a person? 

Yes and no.  In a lot of ways I’m still exactly the same.  I just have new battle wounds and spare parts holding me together.  Physically, I don’t look much different.  I am mentally different and didn’t really notice it until writing all this down. ACL surgery and recovery blows. It’s a quick surgery but it takes so long to recover and get back to your “normal”.  I knew it would be long and hard but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that came with everything.  I’d have moments or days where I’d be weepy and an absolute monster to be around because I’d think “shit, maybe this is my new normal” and that was the saddest thing to realize.  I knew I wouldn’t be exactly the same (and secretly had fantasies about having bionic superpowers) but to think I wouldn’t be as good as I was before….that’s hard. 

My view of what it is to be fit and healthy has changed a bit too.  I have certain physical attributes that I associate with myself.  To be fit I should look like this and to be healthy I should eat that.  The term “fit” still includes certain physical attributes but also how things feel physically.  So, my knees are equally strong when I can go up and down stairs without one leg feeling different than the other - when I can do baby squats and have both legs fatigue at the same depth.  

I’ve gone back to playing volleyball a few times as my work schedule would allow and it’s weird.  I didn’t expect to be afraid of playing but there was huge hesitation for me.  I didn’t run for anything, diving/kneeling wasn’t going to be an option and jumping….please.  I was a useless teammate and thankfully everyone was so kind and understanding of my being a deadweight player.  Trusting my body to do what it previously could do and trusting that my treatment team really did know when I was ready is still really hard.  

When I can return to volleyball without concern and perform at the same level I was before, then I’ll consider myself recovered.  As I balance out my strength and regain my confidence I’ll be able to trust my brain and body again.


 
 

athlete interviews

Camille Stafford

Camille Stafford has been an athlete for as long as she can remember and loves to compete. She was a competitive gymnast for 10 years, and has played soccer since she started walking. Ultimately, she chose to pursue lacrosse at a collegiate level. Currently, she is a Sophomore at the University of Southern California in the Annenberg School of Communication studying Public Relations with a Spanish minor.

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What's your ACL story?

My ACL story begins in February of 2015 during an indoor lacrosse game. My teammate and I collided off the draw within the first ten minutes of the game. Her knee cap hit the inside of my planted right leg. Close up, it probably would have looked similar to a t-bone car accident. A month after the injury I had ACL reconstructive surgery as well as a medial and lateral menisci repair. I missed spring and summer lacrosse and rehabbed in preparation for the 2016 spring season. I came back for about five games in the 2016 lacrosse season to trip over someone’s cleat and have the stitches in my  medial meniscus fail. Therefore, I had a meniscectomy in April of 2016. Following my second knee surgery I went through similar, but less rigorous, physical therapy. With the help of Dwayne Johnson and many others I was able to successfully complete my senior lacrosse season and continue training through the summer leading up to my freshman year at college. I was preparing to play lacrosse at the University of Southern California in the fall. In the last practice before my team was leaving for the inaugural PAC-12 tournament in Colorado I was in a rough collision with a teammate in the 8 meter.  We were moving in opposite directions creating an “X” pattern. Where the two lines intersect was when I had my left leg planted and my upper body jostled in the opposite direction and my knee caved inward. Immediately I knew exactly what happened and the next twelve months flashed before my eyes. I tore my left ACL, medial and lateral menisci and was operated on in June of 2018. I am currently 5 weeks out of my third knee surgery and am hopeful about my return to the field.

What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part of the experience is patience. As an person I am very active and like to continue moving forward. Once I finish or accomplish something I’m ready to move onto the next task. With an ACL injury there is a lot of down time and I often feel stuck and limited by my injury. As with any injury it’s difficult to stay positive, but it is essential to set goal and try and stick with them.

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How did you stay motivated?

I stay motivated because I know what I am capable of when I am healthy. I know that I can recover from this injury and be a successful, contributing member of my team. Even though I am with a new team at a higher level, I am confident that when all is said and done that it will be able to compete again. Also, I live an active lifestyle weather or not I’m in season and without sounding cliché, I’m motivated to get my life back.

What advice would you give other athletes on the road to recovery?

I would tell other athletes to take their recovery very seriously and understand the importance of it, but do not let it dominate your life. As athletes, we are extremely dedicated to our craft and take a lot of pride in that, which is essential to a successful recovery. At the same time, allow yourself to have good and bad days, to cry and laugh, to have fun with friends and family. Remember that the injury and recovery will become a big part of your life especially for the first couple of months, but that it does not define you as an athlete or a person. A major piece of the recovery is mental and I have found interest in things not related to athletics, which I believe were imperative to my previous recoveries. 

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Do you think this experience has change you as a person? 

This experience has ABSOLUTELY changed me as a person and will continue to do so in the upcoming months. It has hands down made me grateful for every moment I’ve been able to step on a field. I have grown tremendously as a person and have become a better friend to others who are going through long and difficult periods in their life. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of and areas of myself that I need to improve. I was not prepare for how much my injuries would rock my world and I would say by the third one I’m doing much better at taking things in stride and adapting an every changing situation.

 


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Cassie Brown

Cassie Brown, 19 years old, is a professional dancer and actress. She recently graduated full-time college with an Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts and started working as a Professional Dancer and Children’s Entertainer, before rupturing my ACL almost 5 months ago.

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

Finally graduated, my professional career as a performer was at its peak. I had trained so hard for two years, putting in 12 hour days, sometimes more. I was starting to work professionally as a Children’s Entertainer for a large company in Australia. I was dancing, singing, acting, getting to travel and still taking classes in my downtime and being mentored in my spare time! Life couldn’t be better.

Whilst I was taking one of my regular classes, I jumped and the next thing I knew I was on the floor. The pop and feeling of a band breaking and my heart sinking was unforgettable and will always stick with me. At first I wasn’t sure what it was and thought I might’ve just popped my knee out and tried to laugh it off. When I received the MRI results I definitely wasn’t laughing. I had fully ruptured my ACL.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part of this injury was admitting defeat. As athletes we always try to push through pain and injury - however in situations like these you just can’t. Saying goodbye to my contract that I had worked so hard for and saying goodbye to everything that I had known for so many years broke me. Suddenly I didn’t know who I was and I was questioning if it was even worth going back to - I could not see myself in that position again at that level. But at the same time I couldn’t imagine living without it...

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

Being an athlete you are so determined, and I know that I’m someone who always wants to prove people wrong. After surgery, even though I was questioning my professional career I knew that I had to rehab right - otherwise I wouldn’t have the choice to go back and do what I love. Of course everyone has their days, even weeks where all you’re doing is rehab and feeling like you’re getting nowhere and questioning if you’ll get back to professional level. I always try to look to the future and imagine myself on stage again and that for me is enough to keep me going.

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

To other athletes going through this injury or something of a similar nature - never give up! Remember what your goals are for the long term and really look at the big picture. This is only a short term thing. It may seem like your world has crumbled before you, but you just have to remind yourself it’s a perfect time to retrain your body and mind and come back stronger than you were which is actually a blessing to a lot of people!

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

This experience has definitely changed me as a person. Before it got taken away in a second I thought I was invincible. I took dancing and performing everyday for granted. I would have days where I didn’t want to go to class or learn that new show because it took too much effort. I now realise how lucky I was to be in that position and am looking forward to appreciating my art every bit more when I come back. I also think as an artist it changes how you move. I’m only 4 months out of surgery and just starting dance rehab from the very start. I feel like a baby taking ballet for the first time but I’m learning to move in a new way that’s more mature and has a story behind it and I can’t wait to see the dancer I turn into at the end of this long, painful, yet inspiring journey.

Read her post on: how this ACL injury made me a better dancer and dance teacher

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Jessica Frederick

Jessica Frederick is a 32-year old fitness enthusiast, wife, and dog Mom who enjoys helping women find their groove in a balanced healthy lifestyle. As an orthopaedic nurse, she works with patients that have ACL and other knee injuries. Recently, she completed her masters degree to become a nurse practitioner and plans to continue caring for orthopaedic injuries as helping patients recover and thrive is near and dear to her heart. 

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

My ACL story goes way back. I tore my left ACL while playing basketball at 12 years old. I had a repair done with a BTB autograft and healed fabulously. That knee has not bothered me since. At age 29, I tore my right ACL while working with a personal trainer. I had it reconstructed with an allograft (donor tissue). This past year, I was having catching and locking in my right knee with some instability events while working out. My donor graft had not held up so my surgeon and i decided to move forward with a graft made from my quad tendon. August 2018: right ACL revision surgery. I am currently recovering and rehab-ing from that procedure. 

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

I think for me personally, the hardest part of recovery is not pushing it too far. I’m an active person so resting is not in my vocabulary. That being said, I fully understand the importance of allowing your body to heal. For my patients, I encourage gentle core strengthening and upper body work to help keep them mobile while they are healing and working on getting their quad function back. 

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

While an injury that requires surgery can feel very debilitating and scary, I have seen and experienced how well people can bounce back. Knowing that MY recovery is completely up to ME pushes me to work hard every day to become better than I was before my injury. I know I can come back stronger. I’ve done it before, and I will do it again. 

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Listen to your surgeon!  Also listen to your body. You know the difference between pushing through difficulty and pushing to an injury. Taking good care of yourself during your recovery will help ensure long term results as well as help speed the healing process. Be active  while respecting your progress. Don’t beat yourself up and don’t compare yourself to others. 

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

Dealing with my knee issues has definitely changed me in a good way. I believe it helps me to provide better care to my patients because I truly know what they are going through. It has also shown me what I’m capable of and what I can overcome. 

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

J Roundtree

J Roundtree is a United States Army Veteran who loves sports (basketball, football, and baseball) and making YouTube videos. His friends know him as a giant teddy bear with a big heart who loves to help people, even if it is only for a brief moment with a smile.

Be sure to watch his inspiring video below where he was featured on CNN for losing 200 lbs!

 
 

1) Can you share your ACL story? 

So I actually tore my ACL Twice. The first time that I tore it I was playing flag football and with a minute left in our game we were up by 10 points and I just wanted to run the clock out. Instead of just letting the person get me I tried to cut up field (because of my competitiveness) and stepped in a hole and my leg just gave out. Also I'm not a little guy at the time I was 6'2" 250 lbs. 

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The second time I tore my ACL I was playing basketball. This was actually the second time that I was playing that day. I drove to the basket and did the same thing that I usually do but this time I missed the layup. I went for the rebound and got it but when I came down I felt something pop and instantly fell to the ground. This is actually on video on my YouTube channel because I was recording myself for my channel.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The worst part about both experiences for me is not being able to be active. A few years before I tore my ACL the first time I had lost a lot of weight (200lbs) and had become very fond of running. So not being able to run along with not being able to play sports was absolutely horrible for me. 

The other hard part, I was going through the VA (Veteran Affairs) for my surgery and the first time it took them 8 months to approve me for the surgery, because of this and not being able to be active I gained a lot of weight back. So right before I tore my ACL the second time I was in the process of losing weight again and I had lost about 60 lbs and then tore my ACL again. 

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3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

One of the best ways that I stay motivated is to take it one day at a time. At the end of one week you will notice that you are stronger than you were at the start of the last week. You just have to trust the process and understand that your body want to be back to a functioning mechanism. Sometimes it just take time.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

I would tell them do not try to rush the process. The times that the doctors and therapist give you are there for a reason. You might feel like you are different and can do things earlier but just trust the process it is there for a reason.

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

This injury has changed me as a person. I have learned that everything takes time. It is better to be at full strength rather than come back early. The worst thing that will happen if you come back early is that you tear it again then you have to wait twice as long to recover and possible not be able to play sports again. 

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Courtney Odelein

Courtney Odelein grew up in a small town of 400 people in the middle of Saskatchewan. Luckily, she had a great dance teacher, Kylie Redl-Gosslin, who believed in her and always encouraged her to pursue dance. Now, she is a professional dancer, choreographer and teacher living in Toronto.

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

When you’re a professional athlete in any capacity, injuries are a part of your life. I struggled with strained knee ligaments and small patella dislocations several times throughout my dancer career. When my knee “blew” out the last and most serious time, I had been rehearsing for a show for a couple of weeks with 6-9 hours of rehearsal per day. I was a principal dancer and was really pushing my body. During dress rehearsal, as I was working on a contortion, exhaustion took over and my foot slipped out from under me, causing a patella dislocation, as well as a tear in my MCL and PCL, and strained meniscus.

At the time, I didn’t realize how extreme my injuries had been and pushed through three shows. By the third show, I was done!

My knee had swollen up to the point where my leg went straight from thigh to calf and no sight of my knee joint. I flew home and was completely immobilized on my left leg. After more MRIs it was discovered I also had a severe bone bruise under my knee cap.

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2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The hardest part was I lost my identity. I spent hours and hours perfecting my craft, moving across the country and sacrificing so much to have my life/career ripped away from me. I had to relearn who I was without dance and I felt so betrayed by what I dedicated my life to. I also had to sit and wait for months before even starting physical therapy. It really played with my thoughts since I had to move back home to Saskatchewan, completely away from my industry and wonder why this happened to me.

3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

My athletic therapist, Blair Niekamp, from Finish First. He had been working with me for years before this and took such a serious interest in how dancers moved and took what I did seriously. He retaught me how to use my body and I am so grateful to him. My old dance teachers from home, Kylie and Jacquie Huck, also gave me opportunities to teach and choreograph on dancers I cared so much for. Slowly, but surely, they helped me fall in love with dance again.

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Find a rehab therapist who takes your recovery as seriously as you do. Give yourself time to be upset, but don’t pity yourself too much. Surround yourself with teammates because as much as we love the game/sport, it’s the people around us that will inspire and remind you why you dedicated your life to this in the first place. Some days, the bad days, you’re going to need someone to lift you up (figuratively and literally).

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

Definitely! In two ways:

1. Having to learn who I was without dance really forced me to try new things, find new interests, and as an artist be inspired by what else there is in life. It gave me hope that if Dance was ever taken from me again that I would still know who I am and will have other things to make me happy.

2. To take it seriously, but really truly love it! To really enjoy, push harder and take in every moment I get to move. I know one day (and how easily) it will be taken from me again, so until then I will never take another minute for granted.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Karly Merau

Karly Merau, 19 years old, has been a cheerleader and dancer since the age of 8 - she ruptured her ACL practicing a tumbling skill. She is one year and four months post injury, and eight months post-op. She is now getting back into the swing of things after the long rehab.

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1) Can you share your ACL story? 

After moving to Melbourne to try out for Australia's top competitive cheerleading team, I was in for some extra training to progress with my tumbling skills. I was on my last set of passes and on my landing, I heard a loud pop and snapping feeling in my knee as it dislocated and relocated. I instantly rolled out onto the floor and grabbed my knee with both hands. My immediate thought was “I've just torn my ACL..” as I rolled around trying to get through the agonizing pain. After seeing a doctor, he assured me that there was hope for my knee to heal itself as there was a small part of the ligament was slightly attached, but still recommended I see a specialist to look over my MRI results. After talking with the specialist, I was shattered as he informed me that it was a case of full ACL rupture and I wasn't to compete with the team this season.

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The most difficult part about the experience was the mental struggle and heartbreak of not being able to train, work and participate with the team and do the everyday things that I took for granted each day.

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3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process? 

I stayed motivated through the experience by still coming to the team trainings and conditioning other parts of my body and supporting the team the best I could. I took the opportunity to try new things and began going to the gym more as cheerleading and dance training became rather difficult to fully participate in. I loved discovering my love for things like yoga, pilates, and boxing. The continuous support from fellow athletes and coaches who'd been through ACL recovery were an amazing support network for the days when I was feeling down about my situation as they reassured me that I would be back to training in no time.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

My advice to other athletes would be to keep yourself occupied and use this experience as an opportunity! This is a really good time to challenge yourself to look into other things that interest you and find a part of yourself that you didn't know you'd had. While you will be limited to your athletic ability, you are still able to make the most of this in terms of fitness as you can begin to condition muscles that you wouldn't usually work on. When the time comes to begin you physical rehab, you'll have a good opportunity to be fully focused on this recovery stage.

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5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?

I believe I am a far more resilient and mentally strong person because of this injury experience. I appreciate my training and the smaller things that became difficult because of my injury. I feel as though I am more driven and motivated in terms of my training as I have been without it for so long. I have a new hand-full of hobbies, topics and activities that I am passionate about as I have now had the chance to discover and experience these things. I have really grown to believe that this injury has become a crucial part of my path as I wouldn't have the opportunities, perspectives, and knowledge I have today. I have grown to be grateful for the experience.

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Adrian Ulises Gonzalez

For Adrian Gonzalez, 27-years old, exercise has always been a key aspect of his life. In November 2017, he tore his ACL playing soccer and is now 11 months post-injury and 8 months post-surgery. Although he is getting back into soccer drills, he still considers himself to be in the recovery phase.


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1)     Can you share your ACL story?

I was playing a soccer match when I collided shoulder to shoulder with another player trying to get to the ball.  The collision made me land awkwardly on my right knee and I immediately sensed something was wrong with my knee.  I tried to let the pain go away before I continued playing, but I when I tried to run again, my knee completely gave out and I was in tremendous pain.  I remember crawling in pain while my teammates rushed to help me.

I could not bear weight on my leg at all, and after getting an MRI, the doctor diagnosed me with a complete rupture of my right ACL.  I was emotionally shattered. 

I ended up recovering really well without surgery and just after 2 months, I was able to jump and run completely fine.  Despite this, due to my level of physical activity, my doctor advised me to get surgery to prevent any complications that could arise in the future. 

2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

The emotional state of mind that I found myself in.  As a soccer player, having an ACL injury was my worst nightmare, so when it happened to me, I thought it was the end of my soccer days and even if I did come back, I was not going to be able to play like I used to.  Controlling my mind to believe I could recover from this was the hardest and most important aspect of my recovery process.

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3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?

Seeing my progress as the days went by was very motivating to me.  I put a lot of effort in the post-op physical therapy process.  Doing my physical therapy and seeing how I was making small but important improvements day by day made me stay positive and motivated throughout the recovery.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes recovering from an ACL reconstruction?

Concentrate on your physical therapy and on training your mind to stay positive.  You will get better and you will come back, its just a process that needs time and discipline.  Remember that not everybody recovers from an ACL surgery the same way, so don’t compare yourself to others either.  If you put in the effort (physically and emotionally) you will recover just fine.

 

5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person? 

Of course.  This experience made me realize that we can overcome anything in life as long as we have a true desire to.  I had many soccer colleagues who had their ACL ruptured, but I never thought it could happen to me.  This reminded me that we are all vulnerable in life and that hard times will get to us eventually.  This does not mean, however, that it’s the end of the world.  We can all overcome those hard, life changing moments. 

 

 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Kindyll Wetta

Kindyll Wetta is a sophomore in high school from Castle Rock, Colorado. She has two dogs and a younger sister and enjoys snowboarding and paddle boarding. She has played sports her entire life, and despite the devastating injury, she is not letting that stop her from her dream of playing D1 basketball in college.


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1) Can you share your ACL story?

Going into my 9th grade year I started getting attention from D1 colleges. I had a really good start to my first high school season and everything seemed to be going in my favor… until it wasn’t. I tore my ACL in the 4th quarter of a basketball game closing out. When I planted to jump, my left knee rotated inward, collapsed and made a loud POP. I had to be carried off the court and was checked out by a doctor who said that I had torn my ACL. Immediately, I broke out in tears thinking how just a minute ago I was out on the court sprinting up and down the floor and now THIS. It was surreal how quickly my life and plans turned upside down. “This can’t happen to me,” is what I told my parents through all the tears. I had heard stories about other athletes that had torn their ACL’s but in my mind, I was invincible and something like this could never happen to me. The following week we went to a couple doctors and found out that, yes, I had torn my ACL and later that I had also torn my meniscus, which would add more strain and stress to my recovery process. After surgery, I was on crutches for 6 weeks because of my meniscus tear--having crutches in the middle of winter is NOT a pleasant experience. Rehab started soon after that. At first it is pretty slow because you have to reteach your leg how to be a leg (all your thigh muscle magically disappears after surgery). When rehab started to pick up, I found that I actually enjoyed it, mostly because I LOVED my physical therapist and the rest of the staff! I rehabbed at Physio Pro in downtown Colorado and still go there once a week to get a workout in! They not only pushed me really hard in my rehab, but they made it TONS of fun! Every day was something new and they design your rehab specifically to your sport. I am so thankful for Physio Pro because had I been anywhere else there’s no way I would’ve had as much fun! The rest of recovery went by fast and just like that, I’m back on the court now doing what I love! 

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2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

Physically, the hardest part is the first 2 weeks post-op. I still vividly remember the excruciating throbbing pain when I would stand up and all the blood would rush to my foot (after surgery the circulation in your leg gets all funky). Post-op, my leg was really stiff and it hurt to move it even the slightest bit, which made sleeping almost impossible. The first week I only got 3-4 hours of sleep a night which made for many rough mornings. Fitting into cars while wearing a straight leg brace is yet another challenge I had to face, as well as: Getting dressed, carrying things while trying to crutch my way around, getting up icy stairs, and the god awful knee-high compression socks you must wear after surgery. Ice became my best friend after surgery and through the recovery process!

As if the physical pain wasn’t enough, mentally it is a draining, emotional process, not only for you but for those around you. My initial thought after I got hurt was that my life was over. Basketball is my thing and when my thing was taken away from me I thought I had nothing. I tried my best to stay positive and wasn’t always successful. I doubted my ability to not only come back strong, but to be able to handle the strain that being injured puts on your life. Was my injury going to make me worse? Would it limit me when I came back? There were so many questions. That summer was supposed to be a HUGE recruiting time for me, and naturally, I worried A LOT about missing it. Now that I am 9 months post op and 7 weeks post return to sport I realize that none of my constant concerns and worries were necessary. Actually, I found that it was quite the opposite. I feel so much stronger when I play, my skills have improved, and I’m still the same player I was before getting injured.

3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?

I’m not going to lie, the rehab process SUCKS. It’s long and hard and filled with emotions. At times, it seems like it’s taking forever. Thankfully, I had the best rehab staff who made it so much more enjoyable. I also had a lot of support from family, coaches, and other athletes during this whole process. About a week or two after I tore my ACL, my assistant coach gave me a couple of letters from some of her former teammates who had torn their ACL’s. Hearing what other athletes who have already been through this process—some multiple times— have to say is really reassuring and at the time it gave me hope. It also put me in my place and made me recognize that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself because so many other people have and were going through the same thing as me. Rely on those around you to help!

 I was so worried that somehow my injury was going to screw up how I played basketball, and that fear of not being good when I came back definitely served as a motivator. I made sure that I was still getting in shots at the gym and figuring out ways to keep up my skill so I didn’t fall behind. As far as rehab goes, I knew the harder I worked and the stronger I got, the faster I would start being able to jump and shoot and run again. It important that you look forward and don’t dwell on the past. What’s done is done, so it is useless to keep wishing it hadn’t happened. Instead set a goal that you can obtain through your rehab time. For me, I told myself that I wanted to get my upper body and core stronger as well as develop my touch on the ball. Knowing that I was still improving even though I wasn’t able to do much helped me keep pushing.

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4) What advice would you give to other athletes recovering from an ACL reconstruction?

Don’t cheat your rehab. The harder you work the easier it will be to come back and jump right into a game. My only regret is that I didn’t focus on my cardio as much as I should’ve. My first couple games would’ve been a lot easier if I had gotten myself in better shape. Nothing bad has ever come out of going the extra mile. Do things on your own, not just when you go to PT and your future self will thank you for it. Remember that this is a long process and you don’t want to move too fast. Be patient with your rehab and know that your therapist/doctors have your best interest.

5) What have you learned from this experience?

One of the most annoying things after I got hurt was when someone would tell me it’s all going to work out and that God has a plan for me. I would smile and thank them, but in my head, I was thinking, “This person has no right to say that because it’s not happening to them.”; however, now that I am recovered, I’m going to be that annoying person, because it’s true! If I could go back and plant the right way and prevent my injury, I wouldn’t change anything. God puts obstacles in our lives because it makes us strong and shapes who we are. Being injured forced me to take a step back from all the action and thrill of playing basketball and just observe. I learned to appreciate basketball from more of a coach’s standpoint. My biggest takeaway from this journey was to never take anything for granted. Not just your sport or being healthy, but everything: family, friends, etc, because in a split second everything can change. If you are reading this and you are about to/ are going through an ACL tear, remember that God won’t give you anything that you can’t handle and it truly will be ok! Have confidence in yourself and in those around you to help you get over this bump in the road!

 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Talia Schwartz

Talia Schwartz is 32 year old gym rat, health nut, and baller from New York City. She managed to stay relatively injury-free playing basketball throughout high school, college, and afterwards in recreational leagues until the fall of 2017. After tearing her ACL, she consulted the orthopaedic team at the hospital where she works (as a speech pathologist) and underwent surgery. One year later, she is now rehabbed and better than ever!

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

I tore my ACL playing basketball! I play in a league with mostly men and drove to the basket against a big dude- who didn't budge! I bounced off of him and twisted my knee- and there you have it. But I am now 1 year post-surgery and 100% back to my usual antics: playing ball again obviously!, squatting heavy, lifting all the weights, doing HIIT style workouts, etc. Aside from a little pain when fully bending my knee, I am as good as new! It took me about 6 months to feel like myself again, and about 9 months to really get good strength return in my right leg.

2) What was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard the pop?

Felt the pop, but didn't think much of it! My knee was throbbing after so I sat out that game. It was stiff for about 2 weeks... then I thought the worst was over- and started playing again! However, whenever I fully extended my knee I felt shooting pain. After about a month of ignoring this, I finally took myself to a doctor- who thought perhaps I had a small meniscus tear. 

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3) What were your initial thoughts when you were told you had a torn ACL?

I could not believe it (and frankly neither could the doctor). I had such good compensatory leg strength and knee stability that I was walking around just fine without one! I actually deliberated really hard for a month about whether or not to even get surgery. I consulted so many people and almost everyone said because of how active I am, it was a must! Otherwise I might be looking at a total knee replacement down the road. So I had a total ACL reconstruction using my own patellar tendon at the end of October 2017.

4) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?

Being on the sideline stinks! I wanted to get back out there! Years of athletics, fitness programs, and marathon training has taught me to just put your head down and get to work! I was religious with doing all of my exercises and was 100% compliant with everything my physical therapist told me to do. I was back to work after 3 weeks!. Aside from feeling awful for 5 days post-op (and the pain with bending the knee to prevent scar tissue formation), the physical challenge of knee rehabilitation wasn't so bad. The mental challenge of having to be patient and not do too much too quick was more frustrating! "Trust the process" they all said!

5) Do you think this injury has changed you in any way?

Yes - it taught me patience! It made me feel even more confident about my ability to overcome! It gave me a bit more empathy for my patients with limitations and/or in pain! (I work in a hospital). It showed me the world of orthopaedic surgery and physical therapy! and lastly... it made my upper body REALLY strong because that's all I could lift for 6 months!! :)

Thank you Talia for sharing your story and experience with the XCLevation community!

 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Natalie S.

Natalie is the Founder of the fitness and lifestyle blog, Flexx & The City, based in New York City. She was a Division I athlete in college, and athletic activities continue to be a mainstay in her daily life. She loves to travel and find creative outlets. She is also a Behavioural Therapist for children 5 years and younger, although she does not believe that her job defines her.


follow her on instagram: @flexxandthecity


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Q&A with Natalie S.

1) Can you share your ACL story?

I was in the gym training on a Friday afternoon, much like any other day. I was doing an agility drill and decided to go a little extra. I essentially performed a broad jump over a few bags, and landed - BADLY. My leg went in then out I heard/felt a pop, and knew something was wrong immediately. 

Luckily my man was with me and we went straight to urgent care- (I know this sounds ridiculous- and it is). I couldn’t walk so they gave me crutches. In the car there I called an orthopaedic I knew of to set up an appointment for the following Monday. I also knew I needed an MRI so I had my Dr. schedule me for that same night - 10pm actually.

Anyhow - turned out I had a complete ACL tear, torn MCL, and lesions on the meniscus. SUX! 

I saw the Dr. Monday morning and got on a scheduled plane to Florida that’s same night to see my family. I am not a fan of being in a wheelchair- I like being in control of my speed and direction, being in the airport injured is not ideal. I saw a few more orthopaedic surgeons when I got back to NY and decided on my doctor. I had to go to PT for a month prior to the surgery to gain back my mobility to ensure I would get it back post surgery. I went literally every day (for torture) until they told me I could have the surgery; I just wanted to get it over with. 

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A few things I think people should know- Everyone says this surgery is not such a big deal these days - so many athletes have it, blah blah blah - just because it is more common place, and there are advances in technology does NOT mean it’s not a big deal. Just because there are a ton of surgeons who do this does not make it simple, or easy. It’s a very long recovery and its not fun. 

Finding a surgeon for me was a bit difficult with insurance as well as whom I feel was best. I had my surgery at HSS with Dr. Gregory Difelice. He is working to revolutionize this surgery. In as many patients as he can he REPAIRS the ligament instead of replacing it. This procedure is much less invasive. I was unfortunately not a candidate for this. Once they got inside the knee they had to replace the ligament. I used my hamstring as recommended. A girl my same age who had surgery the same day as me who was able to have a REPAIR was up and running in a month, while I was still working to bend and straighten my leg. I envy her and a little bit dislike her.

2) What was the hardest part of the recovery experience?

The pain I could handle- the mental aspect is what started to take a toll.

The first month or two you are like I can deal with this it’s the beginning of recovery. After having your leg pushed and pulled and not seeing the numbers change on how far u can flex and bend is not easy. I cried a few times at PT out of frustration/exhaustion/and maybe pain (I guess there is only so much you can take).

 Then you start to feel better and at 4/5 months when you can move around and start performing more rigorous activities, the mental aspect hits again. You feel like you should be able to do a lot, but you are still very weak and nowhere near where your brain thinks you are.  I was also in the best shape of my life prior to this injury, so my expectation of myself were very high.

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3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?

 I have a really good support team. I am 6 months post-op and I would say I am still in recovery. I can do a lot, (cycling, lifting, yoga, rowing) I am the person who pushed boundaries, but I am nowhere near full health. When they tell you it will take about 9 months believe them.  Focus on the progress no matter how small it may be. I was really hard on myself when I couldn’t complete a workout that is typically a breeze. 


4) What advice can you share with other athletes recovering from ACL surgery? Do you have any tips/tricks?

Try to stay as active as possible- swimming and pool workouts once you are cleared to do so are a game changer. Eat as clean as possible it helps in recovery. Everyone’s healing process is different. Find a good PT.
 

5) What have you learned from this experience?

This too shall pass. I would like to say I had some life changing epiphany, but I didn’t. I guess to be more cautious- even though I don’t want to be, but even more I never want to experience this again.

 

Thank you Natalie for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!

 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Martin Krampelj

"Success isn't something given, it's something earned. So go out there, work hard, and make your dreams come true!” - Martin

"Success isn't something given, it's something earned. So go out there, work hard, and make your dreams come true!” - Martin

Martin Krampelj is an NCAA college basketball forward at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. In 2013, he tore his left ACL in a tournament in France. Then in the 2015-16 season, he tore his right ACL during practice when he got tangled with Zach Hanson. In 2018, he tore his left ACL once again after landing on his teammate’s foot. Despite 3 devastating ACL tears, Krampelj refuses to give up his love for the game of basketball, and is one of the rare elite athletes to make such an extraordinary comeback. He thanks his recovery team (see below) for helping him get back to the court feeling stronger than ever.

news features:

FOLLOW HIM ON IG: @krampeljm


Q&A with Martin Krampelj

"I’m back to doing what I love most - playing basketball” - Martin

"I’m back to doing what I love most - playing basketball” - Martin

1. Can you share thoughts on coming back after three ACL tears?

An ACL tear is an injury that no one wants to deal with. But there are things we can control, and right now, I’m talking about our attitude. If your attitude and motivation are high, that will help you go through other tough times in life because it shows what kind of person you are and how you deal with pain in difficult times.

2. How was the recovery experience for each of the 3 surgeries?

For the three surgeries, they used a patella tendon and two hamstring grafts. Every single one of them was very hard from a physical as well as mental standpoint. Some may think that the recovery from each surgery would have been easier, because you know what’s coming, but I think it just gets harder every time. The hardest part of recovery for me was watching others play basketball while I was on the sidelines doing exercises.

“Success is a mindset. If you want to be successful, start thinking of yourself as a success.” - Martin

“Success is a mindset. If you want to be successful, start thinking of yourself as a success.” - Martin

3. How did you stay motivated during the recovery period?

Motivation is definitely a big part of the recovery. One can have all resources available, but if there’s no intrinsic motivation, the results aren’t going to be what one is expecting it to be. I looked up to other athletes coming back from injuries like mine and find them very motivational. Whenever they posted pictures of their progress, they would always include a quote underneath. I looked up some quotes and put them on my wall, on my phone screensaver, or somewhere where they can remind me of what’s important.

4. What advice would you give to other athletes recovering from ACL injuries?

I think that one of the best pieces of advice for someone who tears an ACL is to surround yourself with positive people, such as family and friends, that will help you go through those tough times and keep you motivated and positive.

5. Some athletes believe that they come back stronger after an ACL recovery. What are your thoughts on that, and how are you feeling at this point?

I think that is the case after every ACL tear I have had. I came back stronger and more athletic than before, which doesn’t always make sense; but hard work and achieving your goal will get everyone where they want to be. My knee is feeling great. It was a long 9 months of recovery, but I’m back on the court doing what I love most - playing basketball.

Thank you Martin, for taking the time to share your experiences and advice, to inspire athletes across the globe recovering from ACL injuries.

special thanks to key players in martin’s recovery:

  • Dr. David Brown, SURGEON

  • BEN MCNAIR, athletic trainer

  • terry grindstaff, physical therapist

  • dan bailey, strength coach

  • eriKA KRAMPELJ, SISTER/PHYSICAL THERAPIST

 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Abbie Vos

Abbie Vos is passionate about skiing and running and enjoyed an injury-free life, until she was faced with a devastating ACL tear, followed by a broken toe on the same leg. Despite this, she continues to be positive, and shares how this injury has changed her mindset for the better.


follow her on instagram: @apegan.


Q&A with Abbie Vos

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

In February 2018, I was in Davos Switzerland enjoying the gorgeous ski scene when a snowstorm popped up, making visibility difficult. It was scary as the runs are much narrower than in the USA so I was really scared about making it down without tumbling off of the side of a cliff. Since I was scared, I tensed up and fell – hearing a “pop” in my knee on the way down. I knew enough to quit skiing right then and there, but didn’t think much more was wrong other than the need for ice and rest. Fast forward two months and I noticed I was still having trouble sitting in certain positions and while stretching, but I was continuing my four-day-a-week workouts. I went to the doctor, not expecting much to be wrong when I found out my ACL was 80 percent torn. I was devastated because I knew enough to realize that there was a loooooonnngg road ahead of me. I opted for a donor ligament total ACL reconstruction and the surgery took place on May 9th.  Until this point I’d never had a medical issue or surgery aside from my wisdom teeth. It was surreal not to be able to walk and to rely so heavily on my husband and family. I was used to being strong and not needing anyone. All of that changed.

The first two weeks after surgery I rarely went outside. Showering was difficult and the fact that we’d recently moved to a third-floor condo without an elevator certainly didn’t help. I spent most of the time icing my leg or stretching it in a CPM machine for five hours per day. I took full advantage of the pain medicine – it really made the process so much less painful and took the edge off of being couch-ridden. But I was quick to wean off of them because they’re really addictive.

Within two weeks I was up walking around and looking back I probably pushed it way too hard and should have rested more. At the one-month mark I travelled to Portugal and spent the week trekking around the hilly streets of Porto and Lisbon. All-in-all it wasn’t too bad! Around this time I also started three days a week of physical therapy which helped immensely in getting my balance and strength back. At the two month mark I was climbing Chimney Rock and hiking around in North Carolina!

I was feeling pretty great about my progress and about ready to start running again when I ended up breaking my toe by walking into a chair while I was attempting to meditate in the sun. It took another four weeks but I was finally able to get back into running. I’ll admit that I was doing pretty well throughout the entire process but once I broke my toe I fell into a bit of depression. It was tough to have one small body part put my progress on hold. The broken toe may have been the worst part of it all!

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2) What was the hardest part of the recovery experience?

The hardest part of the experience was losing the function and freedom of my body that I’d taken for granted my entire life. It’s amazing how profound and humbling it is not to be able to do the things you once did.

3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?

I stayed motivated by trying to be nice to myself and allowing myself to have patience throughout the process. Physically active people are used to pushing through pain but when you’re recovering it isn’t an option.  It is a long recovery so focusing on small victories will keep your mental attitude way more upbeat than having one giant goal (like running your pre-surgery mile time).


4) What advice can you share with other athletes recovering from ACL surgery? Do you have any tips/tricks?

Make sure you have a built-in support group of family and friends to help for the first two weeks as you’ll be pretty much bed-ridden. I also kept a journal to note my progress and track my activity, medications and nutrition during the healing process. It made me feel like I was doing something while I was doing nothing! My biggest advice is to be patient with yourself. This isn’t the time to prove you’re superhuman – right now its about healing and that’s perfectly okay!
 

5) Do you feel that this injury has changed you in any way?

Yes as I’m so much more humble and careful with my body. Before I’d cater to my ego by attempting ski runs above my level, hiking a scary ravine or cliff diving. Not anymore! I’m much more protective about my body now and willing to admit that I’m not in my 20s anymore without any shame. I’m also so much more grateful for the physical activity I am able to do. Before, I’d always have to be at the head of my spin class or lifting more weights than the average person in bootcamp class, now I listen to myself and workout for my own well-being, not for external validation.

 

Thank you Abbie for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!

 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Janelle Rattenbury 

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Janelle Rattenbury is a 23-year old from Tasmania, Australia with a passion for AFL (Australian Football League) and cricket.

She has represented her state in cricket, and plays AFL in the Tasmanian State League (TSL). Janelle started playing cricket when she was 13 and fell into it after watching the game and playing cricket often in her backyard with her family. She started playing football when she was 18 years old.

She is currently in her ACL recovery season, but once it is over, her dream is to get back to football and cricket and to win another premiership with her footy girls.



follow her on instagram: @_janellerattenbury


Q&A with Janelle Rattenbury

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

My ACL journey started back in 2009 when I was 14 years old. I was a young girl with so many sporting dreams ahead of me. At the time, I was involved with cricket. I played cricket locally and had the opportunity to represent my state right in front of me. However it was not long after that I ruptured my ACL playing a game of touch football for my school. 

The doctors were in doubt that this was the extent of the injury due to my age so they kept putting off the MRI scan and the treatment. The surgery was put off for another year as I was still growing, so it wasn’t until a year later, 2 days before I was 15, when I finally had my ACL reconstruction. 

8 years later after that ACL injury, is when I began to have lot of success with my sporting abilities. I started to build trust within my body and I got my fitness to the level that I wanted it to be at.

I was heading into another football season (2018) training hard daily and had a really good pre-season with footy. I would have called myself the fittest I had ever been over the years and let’s just say I was ready for the best season yet! 

It was just before the footy season was about to commence, that I had a non-sports related knock to my leg and as easy as that, I had ruptured my ACL for the second time, on the same leg, in addition to some really bad bone bruising! 

So here I am... ACL reconstruction #2! Currently, I am at 31 weeks post op!

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2) What was the hardest part of the recovery experience?

The hardest part of this experience is not just the physical side of things, but also the mental side.

Yes, it’s hard not being able to do the things you enjoy the most, such as playing the sport you love and missing out on opportunities...

But trying to stay ‘mentally tough’ and to constantly remind yourself that you are doing the best you can is a huge challenge. 

One of the hardest periods of the recovery was during the football season.My team had such a successful season and ended up winning their first TSL (Tasmanian State League) Grand final! …which is amazing! …and of course I am over the moon and excited for my team.

But there is that bit of heartbreak and sadness deep down, that I wasn’t able to contribute towards this big achievement. But these are the types of things that motivate me and make me want to come back bigger and stronger.

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3) How did you stay motivated throughout the recovery?

Since this was my second ACL reconstruction, I must say that knowing what to expect made it a little easier for me and gave me a heads up on what was to come. But in saying that, motivation is one of the hardest part of the recovery!

You have good and bad days, but seeing yourself progress and get better with even just the simple things is one of the biggest motivators for me. 

Giving yourself constant pep talks and believing in yourself helps me keep going… which is sometimes easier said than done. 

With wanting to get back to football and cricket next season, I use this as my end GOAL - and this is what gets me to work harder and stay 100% committed to my recovery! 

4) What advice do you have for other athletes recovering from ACL surgery?

Some advice I’d give to other athletes is not to compare yourself or your progress to other people recovering from ACL surgery. 

I found myself getting caught up in what other people were doing and started to question why I could or couldn’t do what they were doing. 

At the time my twin sister ruptured her ACL as well and is currently going through her recovery at the same time. We had different grafts taken and we are of course different people. I used the hamstring graft for the first ACL surgery, and the quad tendon graft for the second surgery. My twin had the patellar tendon graft for her ACL surgery. Our recoveries were different due to the different grafts used and different strengths and weaknesses within our bodies. I had to constantly remind myself not to get caught up in what she was doing... and to stop comparing my recovery to other people. Every rehab is different. And I guess we have to remind ourselves that we all respond differently to these procedures.

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5) Has this experience changed you in any way? What have you learned from it?

The experience certainly changes you in many ways! It makes you see everything from a different perspective and It makes you see things that you probably haven’t recognized before. 

It makes you understand your body and your mental capacity more than you probably ever have. 

This whole experience has made me a reasonably strong person for sure. My ‘mental toughness’ is probably the best it has ever been. 

Yes, you have good and you have bad days but overall, you start to believe in yourself and start achieving goals - whether big or small.

 

Thank you Janelle for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!

SPECIAL THANKS TO KEY PLAYERS IN JANELLE’s RECOVERY:

  • Dr. Stephen hutchinson, surgeon

  • timothy gough, physiotherapist

 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Lauren Agan

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Lauren Agan, 23, played NCAA Division 1 volleyball at Northwestern State University in Louisiana, while completing her bachelor of science degree in addiction studies and psychology.

Passionate about volleyball, she continued to play in England at the University of Nottingham while completing her masters of science degree in health psychology.

She is now a Health Coach and is still actively involved with volleyball through coaching 11-year old volleyball players. It has now been 4 months since her ACL reconstruction.

After making a comeback, she is eager to to run a 5K. This is a big deal for her because she was previously not a runner, but misses and appreciates running so much more after being restricted from running for such a long period of time. She also plans on returning to volleyball again.

Although an absolute dream for her would be to play in Europe professionally, she would also be happy just playing the sport again just for fun with her friends.


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1) Can you share your ACL story?

I played volleyball for as long as I can remember. I played at the Division 1 level and after graduation decided I didn’t want to be finished so I moved to England to get a Master’s degree and continue playing volleyball for the university team.

Throughout my undergrad volleyball career, the only injury I experienced was a minor ankle sprain and that kept me out for only about 1 day. At the beginning of this year, I got a concussion and was out for almost 3 weeks, the longest I had ever been out of volleyball.

My first game back, I tore my ACL and meniscus. For as long as I can remember, I always landed on my left leg first after jumping and hitting. The thousands of times I did that I never watched myself land. When I tore my ACL, I saw the whole thing. My knee went in and out and next thing I knew I was on the ground. My first thought was “I’m gonna need surgery and I’m out.” We only had 6 players dressed out for this game so if I was out, that meant we had to forfeit.

Being my competitive self and having no strict guidelines from a coach or trainer to tell me “no”, I went back on the court and hobbled around. Thankfully we only had about 5 points until we lost the game, I knew I couldn’t have continued for much longer. 

Not long after, I had the ACL reconstruction using a hamstring graft (I didn’t have a choice in terms of the graft option). I had my surgery done in England and I believe the most common with the NHS is the hamstring graft.

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2) What was the hardest part of the experience?

For me, the diagnosis was very difficult. When I initially went to the doctor, I was told that I had potentially dislocated my knee. I was told all of my ligaments were okay. Being in England, a conservative route was opted for, so I was prescribed physical therapy and no MRI. I was in so much pain and kind of left on my own. (I was in another country away from my family). Bending my knee and moving it was extremely painful so I just didn’t move it.

After seeing a different physical therapist I was told my MCL may be affected and suggested I have an MRI. Long story short, 2 months after my initial injury, I found out I had torn my ACL. So at this point my knee was STIFF. I could barely get my knee to 70 degrees. When I saw the surgeon, I was instructed to do intense physical therapy to get full mobility of my knee back before I could have surgery.

I injured my knee on March 7th and had surgery August 18th. During surgery, the surgeon found that I had not only torn my ACL, but also my meniscus. Having such a long time between my injury and operation allowed me to get very strong before surgery. I was lifting weights and doing some cardio up until my surgery date. I think this also helped my recovery, I was able to do straight leg lifts while I was still in the hospital. Not knowing was very challenging and the stiffness I had pre-surgery meant I had to do intense physical therapy before and after surgery which was exhausting and painful.  During this entire period, I was away from my family, in a new country, and my sport had just been taken from me.

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3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?

I still have a long road ahead of me and although I am officially retired from collegiate volleyball I still want to be able to play again - that is my ultimate goal.

Having a good support system literally saved me through this process. My boyfriend was incredible and helped motivate me and keep my head up. My friends and family were so supportive as well; always checking in on me.

Having that support system was something I am so grateful for because if I didn’t have this I know I would have fallen into a depression. The mental side of this injury is incredibly tough and I injured myself at the tail end of my career - I can’t imagine how it would have felt going through this in the middle of my undergrad college career.

4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?

Surround yourself with supportive people but also people who know what you are going through.

I joined a lot of ACL support groups on Facebook. It was so comforting to see how many other people were going through the same struggles I was. I also made a lot of good friends through this and met other people who had torn their ACL - your scars give you a story to talk about.

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Keep up with your physical therapy as well. It is going to hurt and feel uncomfortable, but it’s the only way you’ll get better quickly but also have fun at physical therapy.

My physical therapist in England is the best. I had him before my surgery and after. You will develop such a great relationship with this person and I honestly looked forward to my physical therapy sessions because of this.

It will be hard but surrounding yourself with supportive and positive people will help. Your injury gives you an edge that most people won’t have; you will appreciate the little things more, and learn to love your sport more than you ever thought possible.

5) Do you think this experience has changed you?

Throughout this whole experience, I have gained a greater appreciation for working out, running, and volleyball. I’m going to be honest, this injury SUCKS and I think anyone who has gone through it or has seen someone battle it would agree with me. But the new love and appreciation I have gained for my sport and just simply being able to walk without limping and run again is amazing. As much as this injury sucks, you are being given an opportunity to appreciate and love something more than ever before. Adversity changes you and makes you better. I have learned so much about myself, how I can handle pain, how it’s okay to lean on your friends and family, and how you just have to keep on pushing through. I would never wish this experience on anyone but I know I am better because of it but I also can’t wait until I can play sports again and run! Like I said, wow do I appreciate these things more than I ever thought possible!

Thank you Lauren for sharing your story and in inspiring athletes from across the globe!

SPECIAL THANKS TO LAUREN’S RECOVERY TEAM:

  • Dr. Nitin Badhe, Surgeon

  • Nathan Gunning, Physiotherapist

  • Pete Gray, Physiotherapist


 
 

ATHLETE INTERVIEWS

Lulu Yanez

Marilu (Lulu) Yanez is a graduate of New Roads High School in Santa Monica. As a prep, she was a four year varsity starter, as an outside hitter. A multi-sport athlete, she also played varsity softball, basketball, soccer, and track & field. Marilu was an All-CIF selection in 2006, 2007 and 2008 in volleyball. 

Upon graduating from New Roads, Marilu accepted an academic scholarship to Roger Williams University located in Bristol, RI. While at Roger Williams, she played Defensive Specialist and earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award in 2008, 2009, and 2010. She also received NEWVA Academic Team Award in 2011, and RWU Hawkmate of The Year Award 2011. Marilu was a three year starter for RWU and as a senior was Team Captain. She was a key member of her team as they were defending Commonwealth Coast Conference Champions for three consecutive seasons with undefeated records. Roger Williams also made three appearances in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championships in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In 2011, the Hawks posted an impressive 36-3 record.


1) Can you share your ACL story?

Half Marathon Training: "One day this pain will make sense to you.” - Lulu

Half Marathon Training: "One day this pain will make sense to you.” - Lulu

I was at my high school volleyball alumni game and we were warming up doing hitting lines and as I took the last step of my approach I felt / heard my knee pop out of place mid air. I tried my best to land on my right leg but the damage was done. My adrenaline must have been off the charts because I hopped off the court thinking I could shake it off and still play. However, after about 10 minutes of sitting down and my sister knocking some sense into me, we decided to go to the ER. While we were there my knee popped back into place. After seeing my orthopedic and getting an MRI done we found out I tore my ACL and MCL. 

2) What has been the toughest part of the experience so far?

For me, the toughest part was accepting that it was a freak accident and that 80% of ACL tears are non-contact. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around injuring myself with a volleyball move (approach) I’ve been doing since the age of 14. I had to really accept the injury for what it was and positively roll with the punches. 

3) How did you prepare for the surgery mentally and physically?

Because I also tore my MCL I had to do prehab. My doctor wanted my MCL to heal as much as possible before surgery so I had physical therapy 3 x a week for 6 weeks prior to my ACL surgery. Mentally I’ve been doing a lot of personal development. Reading or hearing a lot of self help books and motivational speakers has positively impacted my mindset going into surgery and is still prepping me for what’s next. 

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4) What are your recommendations regarding nutrition for athletes going through the ACL recovery?

Nutrition is key! Especially when you can’t workout or do cardio the way you want to. How you fuel your body matters! This is not the time to sit back and let the pounds pack on. If anything this is the perfect time to be proactive and focus on what you can control and make how you eat/ drink a priority! 

5) What other advice do you have for athletes who have just found out that they have torn their ACL?

Mindset is everything. Stay positive, know that your only limit is you and if life seems a bit blurry to you right now, it just means you have to adjust your focus. Surround yourself with those who uplift you and want to see you succeed throughout your journey and don’t be afraid to join a supportive community or meet people who have been through an ACL tear! 

6) What are your goals/dreams after recovering from this injury?

So what I thought was going to be just an ACL reconstruction surgery ended up being that plus a meniscus repair and MCL reconstruction as well! Which means my recovery will be a bit longer than most. My goal is to fully recover however, I’ve been a health coach for 5 years and my biggest goal throughout my recovery journey is to inspire/ show people that you can still work towards your health goals and achieve results while injured! 

Thank you Lulu for sharing your story and in inspiring athletes from across the globe!


 
 

Featured Comeback: Natalie Kosko

FEBRUARY 2019

ATHLETE: NATALIE KOSKO
FOLLOW HER: @nataliekosko34

Natalie Kosko has had an impressive journey throughout her athletic career. Having trained in gymnastics since young, she turned down a gymnastics scholarship to pursue the Cirque Du Soleil life. However, after picking up rugby at a local club team, she fell in love with the sport which would then become her new passion. As a naturally talented athlete, she was discovered and soon offered a contract on USA National Rugby Team. Her journey over the past few years have not been easy though. She shares her journey through overcoming two ACL injuries to returning to the game she loves, and aiming for the 2020 Olympics and 2021 World Cup.


“I was invited to tryout for the USA National Team. At this point, I knew the Olympic dream that I always had, and always thought about, was actually becoming an option.”

“I was invited to tryout for the USA National Team. At this point, I knew the Olympic dream that I always had, and always thought about, was actually becoming an option.”

“I started my athletic career as a gymnast. An oversized and an over aged one to be exact. I was 12 going on 13, hanging with the 5-10 year olds who were so much more advanced then me.

I had no idea what I was doing, but knew that I wanted to do gymnastics.

Up until this point, I never actually played any sports except I grew up with 5 older brothers, and was a competitive snowboarder on my own. But in terms of being part of a team and having a coach, that was all new to me. The day I stepped foot into an actually completive gymnastics gym, I knew I wanted to become the best that I could become. I saw girls doing things that I didn’t even know were possible, and coaches yelling at girls who wouldn’t flip over backwards on a balance beam. I couldn’t do a single pull up, could barely climb the rope, had zero flexibility, and lets not even talk about dance rhythm because that didn’t exist. My new coaches huffed and puffed when they realized how much of a “project” I was going to be, having very little to no faith in what kind of athlete I would turn into. 

Within 10 months, I advanced two levels. I was with girls mostly my own age and my coaches were noticing something in me that they rarely saw. I was driven. I watched the Olympics for the first time and realized that I wanted to be one of them and nothing and no one was going to stop me.

It was not an easy road what so ever, but I became fearless in the pursuit of falling in love with challenge. The gym became my second home, and my coaches became my second parents. The doctors office became a frequently visited place - injury after injury, each one being more devastating. There were times when I missed nationals, and missed big events due to injury, but each time I made a comeback. And I came back stronger. But after a while, my Olympic dreams started to become foggy.

I was involved with gymnastics all throughout high school. Eventually, once I graduated, I turned down a gymnastics scholarship and pursued the Cirque Du Soleil Life. While training, I picked up Rugby at a local club team in my town. Instantly, I fell in love with the sport. I realized I was more of a locomotive than a butterfly. Within 3 months of playing rugby, I was invited to tryout for the USA National Team. At this point, I knew the Olympic dream that I always had, and always thought about, was actually becoming an option. 

"…by the end of 2017, I was offered a second chance with the Team USA! I could not believe it!”

"…by the end of 2017, I was offered a second chance with the Team USA! I could not believe it!”

I was 19 years old, with no experience whatsoever. The national coach suggested I play college ball and get some experience. He said “you got what it takes, but its going to take all you’ve got” At that point, I was struck. I knew exactly what I needed to do. I went and played at Quinnipiac University and by the end of my junior year, the national coach offered me a contract on the USA National Team with a little over a year until the Olympics. I left school my senior year to give it a chance with the big dogs.

Unfortunately, life hits you and it really tests you to see if you have what it takes.

I tore my ACL, only 15 days before even moving to Olympic training center. I already had everything packed, and had already left school for this opportunity. I had no idea that something like this could happen so suddenly. I was devastated. For the first 2 weeks after the injury, I didn’t leave my bed. I felt like it was the end of the world. My athletic career was over. Having already left school, I had no idea what was next for me or even what to do. I started looking to people and athletes who had suffered an ACL tear and reading about how they made a comeback, and I started to regain hope.

I knew I could not give up, I knew this could not hold me back. I had a dream, and I knew I still had it in me. I reached out to athletes and trainers, and my parents made sure I was in the best care for a new ACL.

In August 2015, I had the surgery on my right ACL. From August to May, I went to therapy every week. I took the whole year off of school and rugby. I decided it was okay to take a break. I used my ACL recovery as a mental break as well as a physical break.

By May 2016, I was scared to tryout for the USA Team again and decided to go back to college ball. This time, I went to Lindenwood University. With one mindset, play rugby again. By August of 2016, I was back on the pitch in a place I never believed I would of been a year ago. But, something was different this time. I felt stronger after my ACL recovery. 

My first game back, I felt like I couldn’t breathe because I was so nervous. I knew I prepared for it, I knew it was my time. Nothing is harder than seeing yourself play again after suffering an ACL. It almost feels impossible. Little did I know, it was one of the best years of my life. We traveled everywhere around the US and even played in Ireland. We won nationals for the first time and by the end of 2017, I was offered a second chance with the Team USA! I could not believe it!
I knew that all my hard work, determination and the willpower to keep going was actually playing off. This, by far, is one of the best feelings you could ever feel as an athlete.

"I knew that all my hard work, determination and the willpower to keep going was actually playing off. This, by far, is one of the best feelings you could ever feel as an athlete.”

"I knew that all my hard work, determination and the willpower to keep going was actually playing off. This, by far, is one of the best feelings you could ever feel as an athlete.”

From January to March of 2018, I traveled to California, Australia, twice, Japan, Mexico and Las Vegas. I was just reaching my peak. Everything felt so good and at this point, I was becoming what I always wanted! 

Unfortunately, again… life hits you and tests you, harder sometimes.

In March of 2018, I tore my left ACL. 

So many things ran through my head when the doctor came out and told me, “Your ACL is definitely torn. We can get you into surgery by the end of the week.” 
This time, I said. “OK. Lets do it. I’ve been through it once, I can do this again". Whats another 10 months? The next upcoming Olympics aren’t for another 2.5 years.  From that moment on, I knew what I had to do. I was an expert by now anyways, right?”

It was not the easiest road. One month in, I suffered an infection inside my knee. I had to have an emergency surgery that day to clean it out. Over a phone call, the doctor straight out said to me: “If I were you, I would want this done today rather tomorrow, than realizing its too late. This is how athletes lose their limbs.”

My heart sank as these words came through the phone.

I had the surgery that day, and woke up from surgery with the thoughts: “Is my leg still there? Do I still have an ACL?” Over the next two months, I was on strong antibiotics and was behind in my rehab.

But, I never lost focus. I kept going. By 4.5 months, I was running again on a treadmill. By 7 months, I was back in cleats, sprinting, and passing a ball. Today, I am at 9.5 months and I just started contact sports again.

One step at time. With God, anything and everything is possible. I have not given up on my dream. I have bigger dreams now, actually. My first game back is in March. I have my sights set on the 2020 Olympics and 2021 World Cup, with my two brand new ACLs. Just keep swimming.”

Thank you Natalie for helping to inspire athletes across the globe!

SPECIAL THANKS TO NATALIE’S RECOVERY TEAM:

  • dr. David Chao, Team USA physician, San diego

  • sarah leslie, physiotherapist / usa trainer

  • nicole titmas, physiotherapist / usa trainer

 
 

FEATURED STORY: Travis King

Travis King is a former track and field athlete with a passion for football. After tearing his MCL and feeling defeated and frustrated, he pushed through the weeks of rehab, and made an incredible comeback.

 
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"During my Sophomore Season at Moravian College, I suffered my first ever knee-injury. At first I thought it was one of those moments where I could take a few plays off then get back in the game. I soon realized that this was not the case and that I would be sidelined for the next 6 weeks.

I suffered a grade 3 MCL tear that left me feeling defeated. I went to rehab every single day and began to grow frustrated that I could no longer do simple things on my own. Going to the bathroom, taking a shower, and even getting to class were things that once were so easy, but became so difficult.

My football team was also struggling at the time of the season, with a 2-4 record; our post-season hopes looked slim at best. I was not 100% by any means, but with the assistance of a DonJoy knee brace, I was able to return to action against Juanita college feeling about 70%.

Long story short, we ended up winning out the season, which led to an invitation to participate in the 2010 ECAC Division III Southeast Bowl Championship Game. When the Championships came around, we ended up beating Wilkes 26-14. This capped off one of the toughest and most memorable seasons of my athletic career.

Although I felt defeated on my road to recovery, I battled through adversity and mental frustration to get back to the top of my game towards the end of the season.

I learned a few lessons on my road to recovery - the main one being mental toughness. I had to tell myself everyday that I would return to the field and we would make something of this dismal season. We sometimes endure things in life and in sports that seem impossible to overcome. However, these are the moments that shape us into successful human beings. Without the help of my training staff, teammates, and friends, I’m not sure that I would have been able to get through it the way that I did.

If you put your head down and make it a mission to recover, I believe you can overcome any setback that you will face in life. I would love to hear about other people who have also been through a similar tough time in their athletic career, and invite you to share your stories with us here."

- TK #30

 

 
 
 

FEATURED STORY: Issiah Evans

Issiah Evans is not your ordinary 5th grader - at the young age of 10, he tore his ACL and battled through the lengthy recovery. Passionate about football and basketball, Issiah was motivated to get back onto the playing field. His determination and hard work paid off, as he made an extraordinary comeback.

The following story is told from the perspective of his "super mom", Kimberly Nelson:

Issiah with the Trotwood Weerams Football Staff

Issiah with the Trotwood Weerams Football Staff

"Since Issiah was 5 years old, his coaches have told me that my son has gift for football - he was a Captain and a leader on the football field. For Issiah, football is his passion and basketball is "his life". He played on a basketball team throughout the summer and winter months - these teams comprised of some pretty extraordinary players and Issiah would work all day and night (literally all night in the dark) trying to improve his game. That's just how Issiah is and always has been - he is hard on himself in every aspect of his life. For instance, he has never had below B grade in any class, and every night before bed, he would lay out and iron his own uniform. He wants to be the best that he can be at anything he does.

Life took a turn in early November during the first game of the regular 5th grade basketball season. Issiah went up for a rebound, fell, and didn't get up. As a sports mom, I didn't rush over - instead, I gave him a moment to collect himself. Shortly after, the coaches and I noticed that he was crying, and that's when we all rushed over. His coaches, who have known Issiah since 2nd grade, have never seen Issiah cry before. So this time, they knew something was terribly wrong, and helped carry Issiah to the sideline. I figured it was probably just a bad sprain. We iced it elevated it, hoping he would feel better in the morning. The next morning I noticed some significant swelling and decided it was worth a trip to get checked out. I'll never forget the phone call on my way to the hospital when his football coach (who happened to be at the game that night) called expressing his concern for Issiah. This coach had known Issiah since kindergarten, and again had never seen him cry .

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When x-ray results came in, the doctor seemed immediately concerned; almost in denial, and requested that he get an MRI as well. When the MRI results came in, she told me she could not believe it. She had suspected a tear because of the bone bruising, but at age of 10, it was so uncommon and unlikely, that she did not want to alarm me. However based on the results, I was told that Issiah had completely torn his ACL.

We had no idea what we were in for. I called his coach and he tried to argue with me, telling me that there must have been a misunderstanding, as he was way too young to have had a torn ACL. At the time, neither Issiah or I understood the severity of the injury. As we spoke with the surgeon a few days later he had to accept the fact that his basketball season would be over, and that he would need to prepare himself for surgery. This was tough for Issiah, and all he could think about was "what about football?". He accepted that his basketball season would be cut short, but this would be his 6th grade year in football - his final year in peewee, which was a big deal for him. 

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The surgeon called Issiah his "special case", and wanted to try a new procedure since they did not have the proper size graft to repair a ACL on a still growing child. Issiah worked hard in physiotherapy; he went 3 times a week for approximately 6 weeks until February 8th - surgery day. They opted to use his IT band instead of the patella or hamstring graft and operated on the sides of his legs instead of straight down the middle as most ACL surgeries are done - the surgeon believed that it would be easier to move around his growth plates that way. The surgery was planned for 3 hours, but ended up taking 5.5 hours - I was a mess in the hospital waiting room, sitting with his basketball coach, who was by my side trying to reassure me. Initially, the doctors told us Issiah would be going home, but was later told that Issiah would definitely be staying overnight for pain management and to begin therapy. When I finally had a chance to see Issiah after the surgery, he was in good spirits up until the nerve block and pain medication wore off. The staff could not stay on top of his pain, so when the physical therapist came to his hospital bed to work with him, he was in so much pain they could not do anything with him. So we stayed another night. Issiah had lots of visitors - coaches, teammates, and family all came to support him. 

I took a week off work because they told me he would be getting around pretty well after a few days. There was absolutely nothing in the world that could prepare me for the upcoming days and weeks helping him through the early stages of the ACL recovery. We were home by Day 3, and there was nothing but tears, Vicodin, ibuprofen and the dreaded lifesaving ice machine. Every 4 hours I had my alarm was set to give him his painkillers, and if I slept through an alarm, his crying would surely wake me up. I was emptying pee cups and filling ice machines around the clock for 3 more days. This was not the son that I was used to - little did I know it would be some time before I had my son back. I had to call his football coach to help me get him in the van because we were having a 45 min standoff trying to get him to therapy. I was nice, I was mean, I cried, but nothing worked. Therapy consisted of a nice massage and some stretches followed by a lot of pain. Wheelchair-bound, I could see my son slowly fading to the swamp of sadness and despair. By Day 5, he was apologetic and felt like he was inconveniencing me with all this injury, and that made me sad. I told him the stronger pain medications were making him feel that way, and he told me to throw them away. I assured him he was not being an inconvenience, but with 3 other kids to take care of, he knew it was rough for me, and felt like he was being a burden. I called on his two best friends to come over for a sleepover, and that was probably the best thing I had done for him.

Fast forward to summer break with AUU basketball in full swing - Issiah was down to one crutch and finally a lighter full brace. Initially, he would go to the games to watch, as his twin brother was on the team. Sometimes, I would watch him on the bench and actually start to cry embarrassingly. Nothing prepares you for the mental side of this injury, even as a mother. He looked so sad as he watched his brother and teammates. The next weekend and the following weekends, he no longer wanted to attend to watch the games. He couldn't bare to watch. I pulled up to the house one day to see him sitting in the driveway with some headphones on, dribbling his basketball. He had hopes that if he worked hard enough he would be ready for his 6th grade peewee year. Sadly, his surgeon informed him that his knee would not be ready. The coach and I encouraged him to come out to the games, and that they would put him on the staff. The football coach told me he needed him out on the field, even if to assist with coaching. Issiah refused. He did not want to be out there watching everyone else play. He became withdrawn, frustrated and angry.

Issiah's Basketball Team: Team Flyght

Issiah's Basketball Team: Team Flyght

6th grade peewee came and the team made it to the Superbowl but lost, with every parent and coach telling my child that that's why they needed him out there. I became upset. Didn't they know he wanted to be out there badly but couldn't? They made Issiah feel like it was his fault. Not being able to nurse the mental part of his recovery was absolutely the worse feeling as a mother. I can get him ice and pain medications and help with the physical pain, but psychologically, my boy was struggling and it broke my heart. The Issiah I had known was such a strong, proud and determined kid - this was not my kid. The summer was full of limitations and frustration. Everyone was their bikes while Issiah was on his wheelchair. I reminded him that his situation was temporary and we watched videos of wheelchair sports. Eventually he was relieved of the physical pain, and his determination returned. The surgeon said he was ready for winter basketball as long as he wore his DonJoy knee brace during all physical activity. My son smiled so wide when he tried on his new brace and was told it was time.

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The beast was unleashed!

After months of physical therapy, the return to basketball deemed a little more difficult then he expected. Not being able to pivot quite like he used to and struggling with the quick breaks were frustrating for him. He didn't trust his new knee and being out of shape from the surgery really wasn't helping. His coach was supportive and encouraging, but would still keep him on the sidelines quite a bit, telling me that he needed more therapy.

All I saw was my son giving 110% effort, but he was not where he used to be, and we both knew it. That didn't sit well with Issiah, who went back at training hard - he went home and practiced in the snow in the dark. I'd go to sleep hearing basketballs dribbling each night. By then, he was down to physical therapy only once a week, and eventually he was discharged. It was all up to him now. So here we are now...

Issiah is one of the hardest working kids on the team and is back getting his well-deserved play time after all his hard work. He lost all the weight gained from the surgery, and is currently training for the upcoming 7th grade football team, while still playing basketball on the weekends. He's excited to get to go to nationals with his basketball team in July. However I know in my heart the moment he puts them football pads on will feel like the greatest accomplishment of his life. I tell him all the time he needs to be proud of everything he's accomplished in 1 year alone. This was his battle that only he could win. His own little victory mentally and physically that not many his age would understand."


 
 

featured comeback: Cameron Brosnihan

Cameron Brosnihan is one of the youngest athletes to ever experience an ACL tear. He tore his ACL playing football when he was only 9 years old. Determined to get back to playing football, he worked extremely hard throughout rehab, and made a successful comeback. Even more remarkable, he then led his team to winning the Eastern Massachusetts championship.

Be sure to check out Cameron's  interview here.


Cameron Brosnihan, now 11-years old  (photo credit: Jin Silva)

Cameron Brosnihan, now 11-years old (photo credit: Jin Silva)

Update Dec 2018 (2 years post-op):

It's hard to believe that it has been 2 years since Cameron’s ACL surgery on December 12, 2016. His mother can still remember every detail of the surgery day and the recovery. It’s still hard to believe that at the young age of 9 that he could even tear his ACL. 
So how is Cameron doing today? 

Cameron, now 11 years old in 6th grade has just entered middle school this year. Not only is he a top athlete, but he is also on the honor role and still playing football from the Fall season! His team went undefeated for the second year in a row winning the Eastern MA championship back to back years. They were scouted and selected to play in the National youth football tournament in New Jersey. His team pulled off a 19-18 overtime win knocking out the National Championship team from last year. They are now on their way to the football hall of fame in Canton, Ohio to play in the National Championships. 

Cameron made his travel basketball team for the second year in a row as well and is balancing basketball and football at the moment. He was also cleared to play without a sports knee brace! He is so happy! His mother admits, “I was a wreck about him not having that knee brace on, but we have to go back to being ‘normal’ again. We will deal with whatever comes our way in the future”. 

We are so proud of Cameron and all his accomplishments! 


The following original story is told from the perspective of his "super mom", Teresa Hernandez Brosnihan:

Undefeated season - Champs!

Undefeated season - Champs!

"My 9-year old son, Cameron,  started 4th grade in September 2016. His passion has always been football, and this was his 3rd year playing. He was the starting safety on the Pop Warner football team.  

Sunday October 23, 2016 was a beautiful Fall day - the perfect day to play football here in Massachusetts (USA). On this day, his coach called a play to blitz. Cameron went in hard to tackle the quarterback and had his foot planted just as he got hit from behind. He didn’t expect the impact, so his planted leg twisted and he fell. The game never stopped for an injury on the field. Cameron cried in pain and just got up and hopped to the sideline with tears still streaming down his face.  

When Cameron didn’t go back in the game, I was concerned, as that was out of character for him. At half time, I asked if he was okay, and he simply replied "yes". After the game, I noticed him limping, with a very swollen knee. Oddly, he had no pain. We did the usual treatments of ice, elevate, Advil and rest, and no sports (which was hard for him). A week later the swelling had reduced and we now faced his last game of the football season. Cameron said his knee felt ok and that he had no pain, and would like to try and play. I was very hesitant but we did allow him to try. After one sprint down the field he came off crying and did not return back to the game. I knew right then that something was not right. Maybe it was not just a sprained knee as I initially thought.

The next day I took him in to see his primary care doctor, who was convinced that it was just a very bad sprain. To be safe though, they suggested an orthopaedic visit. Days later we went to see the orthopedic doctor who seemed puzzled; he didn’t like the fact that knee was still swollen after 9 days, and so he ordered an MRI.

Cameron being tested for clearance - he passed!

Cameron being tested for clearance - he passed!

When we anxiously met with the doctor for the results, the orthopaedic doctor came in and said, “Cameron, I don’t know how you did this, but you tore your ACL.” My heart sank and my eyes filled up with tears trying not to cry. I knew what that meant to an athlete, but a 9 year old had no idea what was to come with this devastating news. He then went on to tell us that he could not help us due to the magnitude of the injury on such a young child and we had to see a specialist at Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA. He too was shocked and told us that Cameron was the youngest patient he had seen in his orthopedic career with a torn ACL.

The next day we were able to see an orthopedic surgeon at Boston Children’s who did confirm a complete tear of the left ACL. However, the good news was that he could be fixed using a technique called Physeal sparing ACL reconstruction. Due to his open growth plates they could not do the traditional adult ACL surgery. With this surgery they would use his own IT band as the graft and they would fix it, avoiding the growth plates entirely. He would have to be on crutches with a brace for 6 weeks. The re-tear rate was only 4% and they have mastered this surgery in young kids. We were informed that after he was healed he could return to all physical activity, including football! We had hope and faith at that point and so we set the surgery for December 12, 2016.

You can’t begin to explain to a 9 year old what the next year of his life may look like. There were a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. To go from an active 3-sport-athlete to absolutely nothing but PT was unimaginable. No more recess or gym at school and no more sports, for now. School and sports is how a 9 year old bonds with his friends. It is his life line and what defines him and how would he react to all of this being torn away so suddenly?

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Surgery day came along, and we were excited to have his knee finally fixed; yet to say we were nervous and scared was an understatement. The surgery was 3 ½ hours long and was a success! Looking back, we can say that was the easy part. The next week was about controlling and managing his pain. I will never forgot one night in the wee hours of the morning, we heard the clopping noises of crutches coming down the hallway with him crying and yelling for us to help him. He awoke to excruciating pain and needed help. As I tried to calm him down and control his pain, my heart was in pieces watching this agony unfold in front of me. It was not fair. Thankfully the pain subsided around day 8.

The following days, weeks and months were spent at physical therapy. We certainly had our good, bad and ugly days. We had days of tears, days of frustration, days of anger, but we also had days of hope, days of thankfulness, days of faith, days of relief and days of happiness. We found a lot of new activities to pass the time. Robotics, cooking, art, movies, and arcades, to name a few. However, nothing was going to be as good as sports and football. He just wanted his old life back.

We did PT 3 times a week and then the daily at home exercises up to 3 times a day, every day. They were long and very boring to a 9 year old. It’s hard to make “leg lifts, “box jumps”, “balancing” or any exercise at PT fun. We worked extremely hard in the early days getting his leg to straighten. That was a challenge for us. However, what seemed to be an impossible task was getting full flexion. I personally worked on Cameron’s bend 2-3 times a day. I, myself, felt defeated but I did not give up. It took me 7 long agonizing months to get a full bend in his leg (heel to butt). We celebrated that goal and victory that day! And funny enough it was the day before he turned 10 that we mastered that bend. In my eyes, that was a great birthday gift.

Towards the end of his recovery he did weekly 1 on 1’s with a personal trainer as well as the 3 times a week PT visits. At 6 months, the surgeon put him through some detailed testing at a sports preventive injury center to see if he would clear us to return to sports. At the 6 month mark he failed the tests so we worked harder and we went back at month 8 to be re tested.

August 6, 2017 was month 8 AND the new football season had just started a week prior! It was on that day that I got the phone call we had dreamed of. He had passed those tests and got the final clearance from the surgeon to return to sports. My heart sank and I cried tears of joy! What Cam and all of us worked so hard for had finally arrived! I was hesitant to let him play for the fear of re injury but this was why we worked so hard. This was our end goal and we made it there!  

Cameron #14 - Look at that height after clearance!

Cameron #14 - Look at that height after clearance!

Needless to say Cameron was in disbelief that he finally was cleared and free again to be a kid and his smile went from ear to ear! He never looked back from that moment on. He eased into the pre -season and continued to work hard. He had his starting defensive spot back and his team went on to have an undefeated season winning the 2017 Eastern Massachusetts championship!

Cameron has learned a lot from this difficult journey. Patience, working hard and not giving up even when things seem impossible, are just a few! He has learned more about his knee, the ligaments, and the muscles in his leg that I think he would make a wonderful future physical therapist. Of course like any mother, I still worry deep inside about the future. However, we choose to live for the moment and be glad for our amazing accomplishments. The future is out of our control so we don’t worry about the unknowns now.

It has been 18 months since his surgery and he now will show off his scars. He is proud and we are all inspired by him! He is an ACL Warrior! So to anyone going through something similar, take Cameron’s advice and 'Don’t ever give up and keep trying!"


 
 

FEATURED STORY: Laura Martinez

October 20, 2018

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Laura has 7 years behind her after the first time she injured her knee in 2010 during a basketball game. Her knee recovery journey has lasted long having had two knee surgeries and extensive rehab periods whilst wearing a DonJoy knee brace and playing basketball sporadically whenever she was able to. After a successful ACL reconstruction surgery in 2017, she is finally back and feeling like herself again.

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“I loved basketball. I loved running and all exercise. When most of my school classmates hated school PE, I loved it. A lot of love all-around sports, and unfortunately my view towards all of it changed the day I hurt my knee for the first time.

I started playing basketball when I was 11 years old. I remember seeing a leaflet on a notice board in our neighbourhood and thought to myself that basketball might just be the right sport for me. At 15 I already captained a junior league team and played in the local women’s league team, worked as an assistant coach, started refereeing and led the club’s summer camp. Needless to say that I was very much lost in the sport.

After my first knee injury in 2010, I had to go through some minor ligament repair surgery. I bounced back fairly quickly and went back my local basketball club and continued playing. Unfortunately I ended up hurting my knee again in 2014, leaving me with a torn ACL ligament. I was offered surgery, but as I was living alone at the time and had a dog and a job to attend to, I didn’t see any way around it and decided to invest in a Donjoy -knee brace instead of going through surgery. The brace worked well and provided me with the support that I needed in order to play basketball.

I continued playing and refereeing while wearing the knee brace, which made me very aware of the fact that my knee was far away from being alright. That thought was stuck in my head all the way until 2016 when I was accepted to play in Newcastle University. Shortly after attending a few practise sessions, I ended up completely tearing my ACL. All it took was a quick turn during defensive drills and I was on the floor crying; not from pain, but because I knew the day had finally come and it was time for knee surgery, again.

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After my ACL reconstruction, I was able to regain my strength fairly quickly, but this time I wanted to do everything by the book. I decided that I wouldn’t dream of basketball anymore and that I would focus on getting better no matter how much time it took. Six months after my surgery, I started taking small steps towards running again and when my doctor gave me the all clear this February, I cried, but this time because of the bittersweet time it had taken me to get back to who I was before all of my injuries.

I decided there and then that I needed to set myself a new goal which would support my knee recovery in the best possible way while getting back to sports. I decided that my new goal would be a half marathon, and that I would give myself six months to train for it, which was a reasonable amount after bouncing back from the knee surgery.

Six months is now behind me and I have just recently finished the Great North Run 2018! After all the workouts at the gym, running drills on the road and continuous physiotherapy, I finally feel like ME again! Doing sports has always played a big part of my self-identity and how I felt about myself, so now I take part in weekly races around London, go for the occasional basketball shoot around and most importantly, I’m past the point where I wonder daily if my knee will hold up or not. I’ve now done a couple half marathons, and I have the feeling that there is plenty more to come. I’ve never entirely given up hope of going back to playing basketball, but for now I’ll be focusing on other exciting personal sports goals and see where that takes me.”

 

Follow her comeback story on Instagram: @gamajola


 
 

perspectives - FEBRUARY 2019

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Kitesurfer Gains Life Lessons from ACL Injury

Athlete: Karim El Khouly

Karim El Khouly is a 20 year old athlete from Cairo, Egypt with a passion for kitesurfing. He has been hooked to the sport ever since discovering it, and spent his weekends doing what he loved - kitesurfing.

Despite the devastating injury, he has learned life lessons from this injury, which have developed him as an athlete both physically and mentally. He learned to trust his instincts, listen to his body, and gained a different perspective of "time” in the grand scheme of life.


“Ras Sudr is a small city in Egypt where I feel most alive”

“Ras Sudr is a small city in Egypt where I feel most alive”

“I live in Cairo, Egypt. But that’s not the place where I feel most alive. 200 km out of Cairo is a small city called Ras Sudr, a place where the wind is constantly blowing and the beach is calling. It is where you will find beautiful sandy lagoons and islands, super flat water. The astonishing marine life is what caught my parents’ attention to this place.

I’ve been going up to Ras Sudr ever since I was a kid. I never really spent time in the city. I watched kitesurfing grow and develop in Ras Sudr however never got the chance to try it. One day a friend of mine gave me a kite and told me just play around with it, I’ve been hooked ever since. I spend my weekdays at Uni and travel on the weekends to do what I love kitesurf, film and teach new students how to kitesurf. 

Injury is big risk one faces in kitesurf if you tend to do the more extreme aspects of kitesurfing, instead of the more relaxed cruise mode. I tore my ACL while performing a trick called “kite loop”, where you jump and make the kite loop around itself, generating a strong pull which throws you across the sky. I was unlucky one day and got the kite dis-attached from me after doing this trick resulting in me free falling 6-7 meters and falling straight on my leg. The entire force from my landing went to straight my right knee and I HEARD IT.

One could say it was all due to bad luck, however I had just come back from a 4 month ankle injury from longboarding and I was in no shape ready to be doing aggressive tricks like these. At that point, I lacked strength and balance on my right leg, further increasing the risk of injury.

I was furious with my physiotherapist who gave me the go ahead to get back and kitesurf. I knew I was going to face the biggest challenge of my life so far. I heard all the dreadful stories about tearing an ACL and how tough the operation and physiotherapy was, but I never thought I would go through it. However, the day came… 

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On October 6th 2018, I went into the operating room and thank God it was successful and everything went by smoothly. The hardest part, however, was just beginning. The day after the surgery, I started physiotherapy and the real challenge had begun. 3 hours a day, 5 times a week was the program with my new physiotherapist. Its super tough at the beginning, feeling like you’ve lost all sort of motion and strength in your leg. It seemed impossible that I would be able to get back to where I was. I realized later, that that was the worst way one could think, which is why my parents supported and motivated me daily. They constantly reminded me if others did it and got back to kitesurfing, then I could too. That’s when my mentality changed and I took this whole injury as a challenge.

Staying motivated is key to overcoming this injury. 6-9 months’ worth of motivational content is hard to find, which is why you need to keep yourself busy. I personally started playing the guitar. Another important aspect to overcoming physiotherapy is staying consistent with the therapy. That’s the most difficult, because how the body works is astonishing - it’s like a wave going up and down. Some weeks you’re progressing and doing well, and other days you feel like your body is not responding.

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Sticking to the therapy is KEY. In the first three months, you are constantly witnessing change and the knee range of motion is improving and you’re walking better without crutches. Also, the pain starts to go away, so you are motivated and happy. However, after that, it’s all about building muscle and balance where the progress is not as visible to the eye as it was before, and that’s where people start losing consistency in their recovery.

Remember by, 3 months, you are almost halfway there. I’m 75% done with my physiotherapy and I’m at a point where I am building muscle mass so that I’m strong when I return to the water. 

This injury helped me connect with my body a lot more than I did previously. The day I got injured, my body was telling me not to perform that trick. However, I didn’t listen and I fell for peer pressure. Now I know that the body is much smarter than one would think and if your body is telling you to stop or slow down, you need to listen to it.

Another perspective of mine that changed was how I was so concerned about time and not wanting to miss out. When I got injured I was devastated that I would miss 6-9 months of kitesurfing but later on I started to tell myself ‘what’s 6-9 months in a lifetime it’s nothing’. Now that time is not a key obstacle in my recovery I am less concerned about how much I’m missing out, temporarily, and more concerned about reaching an end goal which will allow me to participate much more in life than the couple of months that I missed out on. ”

Thank you Karim for sharing your story to inspire athletes across the globe. We wish you all the best in your recovery!

Follow karim on IG: @kkhouly

 

 
 

perspectives - JANUARY 2018 

How Tearing My ACL Changed My Perspective On Life

Athlete: taylor davis

Taylor Davis is an 18-year old athlete from a small town in Massachusetts, where she was heavily involved in a wide variety of sports. This included basketball, soccer, softball, gymnastics, and karate. In her junior year of highschool, she decided to focus on playing soccer, and continued playing in college at the Southern Connecticut State University.


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“Soccer had always been a part of my life, and it wasn’t something that felt like a job, it was always my escape.  On a stressful day, the one thing I could always count on to cheer me up, was soccer.  Since a young age soccer became an everyday activity.  However, it became just like any other daily activity, and I forgot to appreciate how important it was to me.  This was until the day I tore my ACL.  

It happens far too often that we don’t realize what we have until it’s gone.  This injury has made me realize a lot about my own life in general.  Every day since my injury I have thought about soccer, and have even forgotten what it feels like to play. 

Through all of the frustration, I can never get mad that I have been faced with this injury, because for everything it has taken, it has given me something else.  For the time lost, it has given me more passion for the sport.  For my first college season spent on the bench, it has given me a new perspective on the sport I love.  I had to become a spectator of the game, and I wouldn’t allow that to bring me down. 

There was so much to learn, and I didn’t know until there was nothing else left to do.

From this injury I have learned that one should never wait until it is too late to appreciate the things that mean the most to us.  This may be relatable within relationships, friendships, and other activities, but whatever it is, don’t wait until it’s too late, appreciate what you have, while you still have it.”

SPECIAL THANKS TO KEY PLAYERS IN TAYLOR’S RECOVERY:

  • DR. ELIZABETH MATZKIN, SURGEON

  • KYLE RODENHI, PHYSIOTHERAPIST, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN’S HOSPITAL

Thank you Taylor for sharing your story to inspire athletes across the globe. We wish you all the best in your recovery!

Follow TAYLOR on IG: @taylordavisfitness

 

 
 

perspectives - december 2018 

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Motocross racer refuses give up despite four ACL tears

Athlete: joanna miller

Joanna Miller, 24-years old, is determined, dedicated, and one of the top motocross riders in the world. She is a three time Polish Champion, and placed 5th in the 2017 European Championships. When she started in motocross in 2007 at the age of 13, she was the sole female motocross racer in Poland. At the time, she faced criticism as the only female in a male-dominated sport, but Joanna has continued to prove herself after coming back from multiple injuries and competing with the best of the best. Despite four ACL comebacks, she has not given up on her sport and hopes to compete in the 2019 Polish Championships.

UPDATE: Joanna competed in the 2019 polish championships and won 1st place - congratulations!


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Photo credit:   @orlenteam_official

Photo credit: @orlenteam_official

By the age of 24, Joanna Miller had torn her ACL not once, or twice, but four times. She first tore her ACL in her left knee when she was 14 years old during a training session. Since she was so young at the time of injury, she was told to wait two years before she could be operated on. Dealing with an unstable knee over the next two years was not easy, and she sprained her knee multiple times while riding. Once she turned 16, she was told that she was old enough for surgery and finally had her ACL reconstruction performed. For this surgery, she used her hamstring tendon as the graft, and had her meniscus removed; likely since it was too frayed to repair. Seven months later, she was back on her bike; motivated and determined to race again.

In 2017, seven years after her making a comeback, she was competing in the Polish Championships when she crashed and tore her ACL again in the same knee. Determined to compete in the upcoming European Championships that she had been training so long for, she decided to hold off from having her knee operated on until after the race.

“It was difficult to stay positive and ride with pain”, she admits. Despite this, she still managed to place 5th in the European Championship race, and four months after this second injury, she finally had her second ACL reconstruction in her left knee. This time, the surgeon took the hamstring tendon from her right leg, to donate to her left knee. It was difficult having surgery on both legs at the same time, especially for someone as active and competitive as Joanne. But her motivation level did not diminish and she worked hard to get back on her bike as soon as possible.

Five months after the surgery, she was back on her bike. Since the winter seasons in Poland, where she is from, are very cold, she spent nearly two months training in Spain at the Mx Camp. During this time, she was also studying at University, and balancing the studies with intense training while living almost 3,000 km from home. It was exhausting, but she continued to persevere and work hard throughout the recovery period.

Eight months after her second surgery, the time had come for the final Motocross World Championship in Italy. She had been waiting a long time for this day to come, and still has vivid memories of this day.

“I was pretty happy to be there. I felt very well prepared for this season”, she recalls.

Things started off quite well at the World Championship race. In the first race, she was in 12th place out of 49 riders… until the final lap, when she crashed and tore her ACL in her right knee.

“It was like a bad dream. I worked pretty hard all winter. To tear my other ACL in the first race of the Championships was very unfortunate”

She could not believe this was happening again. She was in more disbelief when she found out that was not the only one to tear her ACL in that same race that day. Two other riders she was competing against had also torn their ACL in their right knees: Nicky Van Wordragen from Netherlands, and Sandra Karlsson from Sweden. Wordragen tore her ACL in the first lap, Karlsson tore her ACL in the middle of the race, and Miller tore her ACL in the last lap.

It was unbelievable.

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Miller was crushed and in denial. She was concerned that her season had come to an end, and that it may even be the end of her career. She had feared that she would also lose the support of her sponsors. Countless thoughts flooded her mind and for a while, she did not know what to do.

One month after this third ACL injury, she decided go for another ACL reconstruction. Since she had already used both hamstring tendons from her left and right knees for her previous two ACL reconstructions, this time she used a hamstring tendon from a donor.

All three racers from the World Championships had their ACL reconstructions during the same month. “Nicky had her operation one week before me, and Sandra had her operation two weeks before me”, she mentioned. During the recovery, the three racers kept in touch; texting and communicating with one another every day since the surgery and motivating each other throughout the entire recovery period. Mentally, she found that this surgery was easier to go through than the previous two, not because she had been through it before, but because she had the support of the two other girls. Not only did the three of them share the same passion for motocross, but they could relate and understand each other as they recovered from the same injury at the same time.

“Thanks to Nicky and Sandra, I was positive during the recovery. I wish them all the best in the 2019 World Championships!”, she says.

Joanna Miller wins 1st Place in Poland Motocross Championships

Joanna Miller wins 1st Place in Poland Motocross Championships

The three of them treated the recovery almost like a race. “Race of the knee progress”, they called it. “One of us was cycling first, another one of us was the first to squat…” They understood that everyone’s recovery is different, and knew their limits. However, this competitive spirit continued throughout the months of recovery and they found that having one another to recover with helped with their mindset. After six months, all three of them were back on their bikes, training for the 2019 World Championships.

Miller was looking forward to having her life back on track with motocross. However on the first training session back, she had a terrible crash, and tore her ACL in her right knee… again.

She could not believe this.

“I was depressed and out of my mind. It was the most difficult time in my career”. This was the first time in her life that she considered walking away from the motocross world… and she came close to doing so.

One of her sponsors, continued to believe in her though. They told her that her bike could stay with her for the 2019 season, and so she decided to go through yet another ACL reconstruction. This was her fourth ACL reconstruction and she used the patellar tendon from the same knee for the graft. For this surgery, her anterolateral ligament (ALL) was also repaired.

It has now been over a month since her last ACL reconstruction and she has not yet given up.

“If it is possible, I want to compete in the Polish Championships in 2019.”


Photo Credit:   @orlenteam_official

Photo Credit: @orlenteam_official

Q&A with Joanna Miller

How did you stay motivated during the recoveries?

"Motocross is the most important thing in my life, and the visions of racing again is what keeps me motivated. In my 24 years, I have had eight surgeries from motocross accidents - ACL injuries are just part of the injuries I have had to overcome throughout my life. Having others to talk to who understand the injury and are going through it with you, helps a lot. My friends and sister also helped to keep me motivated. All of these people cared about me, and it helped a lot during the low days. My physiotherapists at RehaFun were the best - I spent a lot of time there after each surgery, and it was like my second home. Their encouragement helped a lot and kept me motivated. My mentality is that if I’m going to do something, I give it 120%, or I don’t do it at all. This applies to every aspect of my life.


What would you like to tell other athletes recovering from ACL injuries?

"Focus on your recovery, and keep your head up! Make the best use of the recovery period, and use it as an opportunity to become better.”


Thank you Joanna for sharing your story to inspire athletes across the globe. We wish you all the best in your recovery!

Follow JOANNA on IG: @miller_19

 

 
 

perspectives - december 2018 

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Fighter-Opera singer opens up about her journey

Lauren Curet, from New York City, is a lyric soprano Opera singer by day, and a Krav Maga fighter by night. The past few years have not been easy for her, and she has had to overcome numerous obstacles that come her way.

However, each of these experiences have only made her stronger. Below, she tells us about her experiences and the highlights over her year, as well as advice for other athletes.

Lauren is also a Soul-Cycle enthusiast, and part of the New York Road Runners; a non-profit running organization based in New York City whose mission is to help and inspire people through running.

FOLLOW HER ON IG: @thefightingsoprano


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ATHLETE: LAUREN CURET

        On January 23rd, 2018 I had my ACL reconstructed after I tore it in a freak Krav Maga accident. [Note: Krav Maga is a military self-defence and fighting system developed for the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli security forces] At the time, it felt like it was the end of the world. I was absolutely devastated when my orthopedic doctor told me that it would take an entire year for me to recover. Before my injury, I spent 2-3 hours a day exercising. In fact, I was only a few days away from moving up in ranks at my Krav Maga gym. I felt so alone because nobody knew how much training truly meant to me. Three years ago, I was brutally raped by an emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend. This traumatic event kickstarted my journey to get healthier and learn how to defend myself. In this process, I lost 50lbs and gained a mountain of self-confidence.  Getting injured made me feel weak and scared. I became terrified that I was going to be raped again. I’m happy to report that these feelings went away and I grew stronger than I was before.

        The first three months post operation showed me how strong I was mentally, physically, and emotionally. Because of the horrible scar tissue build up, my recovery felt longer than it should have been. In fact, it took 3 months of my physical therapist’s graston technique sessions and weighted leg lifts before I was able to walk without crutches or my brace. It also took 3 months for me to regain full range of motion in my leg. Honestly, those three months were the hardest three months of my life. The only person I connected with was my physical therapist, Matt. I remember seeing him for the first time and thinking “This man is going to change my life.”

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        Physical Therapy quickly became my favorite part of the week. I felt like I was a part of a family because everyone there knew exactly what I was feeling. It gave me people to talk to. Most people in my daily life told me to “just be patient” whenever I asked for advice. Matt helped me plan a healthy return to sports. I remember that one guy that I was seeing at the time frequently called me an “invalid” so that I would depend on him more. Meanwhile, Matt constantly told me that I was strong and an inspiration to the people around me. Physical Therapy was also my favorite part of the week because every session had a new breakthrough that made me feel like I was getting closer to my goal. Plus, it was always fun getting to know the other patients and asking them what happened to them and hearing the stories of how they got injured.

        Outside of being an athlete, I’m also an opera singer. This recovery was important because this past summer I performed my first leading lady in Novafeltria, Italy. In this role, I needed to be able to skip, run, and most importantly, kneel before June. I almost turned down the offer because I was afraid that I was going to lose all my progress and go back to where I started but Matt gave me his blessing and prepared me for the two months, I would have without him. While I was in Italy, I upped my exercise reps and taught myself how to jog on a cobblestone path. I started with a 20-minute mile. Now I’m running 5K races in under 40 minutes. I also kept a long email chain with Matt. He was almost like a proud dad in his responses. He gave me tips in my running stride and got the costume department to give me knee pads for my performance. When I returned, I was actually stronger than I was before.

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        Now, eleven months later. I have completed two 5K races and I’m back at my Krav Maga gym. The journey hasn’t felt as long as I thought it would. There were many moments where I wanted to give up. I spent many nights in my first three months crying myself to sleep. However, if I could go back in time, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I am much more motivated now! Every workout I do at the gym is more meaningful because of what I went through. I treat exercise like a gift and I actually appreciate my body. Also, I could do things that I was never able to do before like single legged squats. I’ve grown patient with myself. I learned how to not compare myself to others and love myself. How many people in my life are able to say that they went through the challenge that I’ve been through? The fact that I was able to learn how to walk again, how to jump again, and how to be my own superhero is amazing. I’m thrilled with the progress that I’ve made.

        The one advice that I would give to people who are struggling with this is that even when it seems rough, remember where you started. Every time I felt like I wasn’t progressing or I was growing impatient with myself, I remembered where I began my journey (not being able to walk to the bathroom without being in serious pain). Also, try to find a hobby, if exercise was your main hobby then invest in some arm weights. I worked a lot on my upper body because I wasn’t able to do anything but sit or lie down for a while. If you’re a college student like me, take advantage of your school’s mental health facility. I didn’t start seeing a therapist until I got injured and I wouldn’t have been so positive on my journey if it wasn’t for my weekly sessions. I would also say not to think about who you used to be. I spent hours thinking about how strong and heroic I was before my injury. Instead, I should’ve thought about how powerful I’ve become and how much more powerful I will be in a few months from now. Be patient with yourself and trust your physical therapist. They know what they’re doing. I promise you. I does get better.

Thank you Lauren for sharing your story to inspire athletes across the globe!

 

 
 

perspectives - december 2018 

NCAA Division I Lacrosse Player has sights set on going pro

Erik is a 25-year-old, lacrosse athlete with his sights set on being a pro within the next year. He is a graduate of Cornell University where he played NCAA Div. I lacrosse. After his college lacrosse career, Erik has been very involved in the lacrosse community. He is passionate about growing the game of lacrosse and mentoring young athletes. Through his business, 41 Fitness, he runs development camps for lacrosse players and a Lacrosse In School program that introduces kids to lacrosse. 

FOLLOW HIM ON IG: @erikturner41


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ATHLETE: ERIK TURNER

“No athlete is truly tested until they’ve stared an injury in the face and come out on the other side stronger than ever.”

I am an athlete. Unfortunately, part of the athlete’s job description is facing injuries. It’s unavoidable. No matter how much physical preparation you put in there is always the risk of getting injured in training or competition. Since the risk is always there, it concerns me that there aren’t many athletes who are equipped with the tools to handle injury effectively. I’ve found that the only athletes who really know how to deal with it are the ones who have experienced it before. It makes dealing with an injury very frightening and overwhelming because you don’t know what to expect or do. When I tore my ACL I made it my goal to share my process with as many people as I can. Not just the good parts when I feel excited, optimistic, and motivated. I want to share the parts where I feel scared, confused, angry, or depressed. The hope is that it will assist others in navigating the rehab process effectively, and they can get back to doing what they love.

Last summer I moved from Alberta to British Columbia to play lacrosse for the Sr. A Coquitlam Adanacs in the Western Lacrosse Association. The WLA is one step below the pros, and many of the pro lacrosse athletes play there during the summer to stay sharp. If you play well during a WLA season there is a good chance you’re going to get signed to a pro team. Obviously, I was pretty excited about the opportunity to get scouted by some pro coaches and play against some top-level competition. Knowing how big of an opportunity I had in front of me, I spent the offseason preparing harder than I ever have before. I worked with elite strength and conditioning coaches, lacrosse coaches, and sports psychologists. It was the most physically and mentally prepared I could have been.

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In the second period of our preseason game, everything changed. I chased a loose ball into the corner with an opponent on my back. I picked up the ball and began to turn out of the corner to make a pass to a teammate. As I began to turn, the opposing player pushed me in an effort to keep me in the corner. The combination of the pivot plus the push turned out to be too much strain for my knee and it buckled. I remember laying on the floor feeling very calm. Surprisingly, I wasn’t in too much pain even though I knew it was probably a pretty serious injury. The trainers came over and I told them that it was my knee and I needed help to get off the floor. They wrapped their arms under my shoulders and I hopped my way off the floor. My teammates rallied around me and offered words of encouragement, which meant more to me than they’ll ever know. The trainers looked at my knee in the training room and did the typical knee assessment tests. Early indications didn’t suggest my ACL was torn. I left the rink that day on crutches feeling hopeful that my season wasn’t lost.

The next day I could barely move my knee. I made my way to the arena to see the trainers for another assessment. After testing my knee again, the messaging had changed from the night before. I remember our team doctor putting his hand on my shoulder, looking me in the eye, and saying how sorry he was that this had happened to me. I crutched out of the trainers room, sat in my locker, and cried.

I got set up to do a MRI the following week. During that week of waiting I went into a period of denial. I refused to accept that my ACL was torn and I didn’t want to believe this had happened to me during such an important season.

The MRI left no doubt. My ACL was torn, my season was over, and the future was uncertain. I consider myself to be a pretty strong person, but upon receiving that news my spirit was broken. It was like a huge part of me had been ripped out suddenly. I am an athlete, but all of a sudden I couldn’t be one.   

I had to ask myself, “How will you respond?”

The first thing I decided to do was embrace this as an opportunity to share my story. I shared the news of my injury over social media. The response was incredible. My community showed up so powerfully to support me and made me feel so inspired to attack my rehab.

Then, I began trying to learn everything I could about the ACL recovery process. I reached out to physiotherapists, family, friends, and other athletes who had dealt with the injury to hear about what worked and didn’t work for them. This empowered me because I now had a sense of what a successful rehab process should look like. Based on what I’ve learned I would divide the ACL recovery process into three sections. I like to compare it to what I would typically experience as an athlete. They are:

1)    Prehab (Offseason)

2)    Rehab (In-Season)

3)    Return to Sport (Playoffs)

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What I can tell you with complete certainty is the prehab/offseason phase is extremely important. Find a great physiotherapist and start doing prehab as quickly as you can. There is a ton of research around the efficacy of prehab programs in regards to great post-op results in the short-term, but also overall knee health in the long-term. I even switched physiotherapists early on because the one I was initially set up with had me doing exercises that weren’t going to give me the type of results I was looking for. A good prehab program will focus on regaining range of motion, building quad strength, and reducing swelling in the knee. I started my prehab with basic exercises a few days after my injury and built my way up to doing jump landings, box jumps, and 245 pound squats the day before my surgery. My work in the prehab phase enabled me to get off crutches one week after surgery, back to training two weeks post-op, and running at 12 weeks post-op.

I had surgery on August 31st, 2018 after being originally scheduled for October 26th, 2018. Honestly, I got really lucky with my surgery date. My original date in October would have meant I would miss two full seasons of lacrosse. Surgery in August sets me up to return to sport this upcoming summer and for that I am very grateful. After a conversation with my surgeon I decided to do a hamstring graft to repair my ACL. For me, based on my physical condition and the information he gave me it seemed like the best option. I would encourage you to do the research on all the options and have a discussion with your surgeon before you commit to a certain type of graft. In my situation, I’m doing a lot of exercises to help protect my hamstring as well.

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Currently, I’m right in the heart of the rehab/in-season phase. The focus is on rebuilding strength, movement mechanics, and confidence in my knee. Again, I highly encourage you to search out someone who has a lot of experience working with ACL injuries to help you with your rehab. To have success during this piece is pretty straightforward. Show up when you’re supposed to and follow the plan. If you can do that you will have a really successful rehab phase.

Finally, I relate the return to sport phase as the playoffs because it’s where everybody wants to be, but only a few get there based on the amount of work they are willing to put in. I think it’s important to always keep the ultimate goal in your mind in order to use it as motivation to put in the daily efforts required to get there. With the proper approach you can make it back to sport. Believe that with your entire being.

Ultimately, I think the ACL recovery process takes a lot of courage. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Courage is the commitment to begin without any guarantee of success.” I think the toughest part of dealing with an ACL injury is the amount of mental capacity it takes to wake up everyday for upwards of nine months, and put in the effort required to get you back to healthy. It takes a great deal of courage to invest that much time and effort without knowing what will happen on the other side of it. I hope you take a moment to acknowledge yourself for your courageousness and resilience in dealing with this injury.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and insight. I hope it has been either informational or inspiring for you. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime to chat. I love connecting with other people dealing with this process and supporting each other through it.

With Gratitude,

Erik

Thank you Erik for taking the time to share your story and experience athletes across the globe!

Special thanks to key players in erik’s recovery:

  • dr. david otto, surgeon

  • Glen Sather Sports Medicine Clinic

  • Pivotal Physiotherapy

  • ATHX Performance

  • Ian Hallworth, Physiotherapist

  • Jack Haworth, Physiotherapist

  • Craig Wilson, Physiotherapist

  • Declan Morris, Strength & Conditioning Coach

  • Nelson Lau, Strength & Conditioning Coach

  • Dana Perkin, Strength & Conditioning Coach

 

 
 

perspectives - december 2018 

the journey from a mom’s perspective

For those of you who have seen Cameron’s comeback story, you may recall that he is the young boy from Massachusetts who tore his ACL at the age of 9, and went on to win the Eastern Massachusetts championship.

There is no doubt that his mother was a key role in his recovery - putting her life on hold to focus on her son. For seven months straight, three times a day, she spent a great deal of time trying to help Cameron regain full flexion in his knee. Even two years post-op, she continues to be a huge part of his athletic journey.

In the following feature, she shares her experience on the road to recovery - both the good and the bad. She also shares some words for the parents in the XCLevation Community.


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ATHLETE: CAMERON BROSNIHAN
MOTHER: Teresa Brosnihan

"At the young age of 9, my son Cameron tore his ACL playing football. This journey is not only a struggle for the impacted child, but also for the entire family. As a mom, your job from birth is to keep your child safe and healthy.

No one can prepare you for the rollercoaster of emotions that will come with this injury. I’d like to share just a few things I learned along the way; both the good and the bad.

During the first 3 months post-op, Cameron was doing physical therapy twice a week. My husband and I didn’t feel as if he was being challenged and progressing in rehab and he wanted to change rehab clinics, but I wanted to stay there. We did not see eye-to-eye, and this caused a great deal of stress and tension in the home. The therapist was a wonderful person and had grown to know Cameron from day 1, but my gut feeling was that my husband was right. So we did visit and speak with another therapist, who was skilled in working with children who have torn their ACL. Physiotherapists often have different specializations, and it is important to find a physiotherapist with a lot of experience rehabilitating ACL injured athletes. At month three, we switched therapists. In hindsight, that was the best decision we had made as Cameron began to make great progress. Always follow your gut.

Generally speaking, I have a thick skin and don’t cry much. Throughout this journey, I cried a lot. I cried watching my son struggle. I cried in frustration. I cried for the unknowns. I did not sleep well at night. I worried all the time. I was anxious and certainly overwhelmed too. But there was one thing that I knew for certain and that one thing was that I would do anything humanly possible to get Cameron back to playing the sports he loved so much. I felt as if no other mom could understand the daily struggles I was facing and to this day, I find that still to be the truth. That is one reason why I love the ACL communities, as the other moms can truly understand my struggles and emotions.

I put my own life on hold for Cameron, as any mom would do. I stopped working out and doing the things that I enjoyed doing in my spare time. My sole purpose in life, during that time, was to get him to PT, now up to 3 times a week, and to make sure he was focused on his PT at home daily. I worked on bending his leg 3 times a day for 7 months straight to get him back to full flexion. Looking back, this was not a wise choice, nor a healthy one. Moms need their outlets too and exercise is certainly one of them, but I was so focused on Cameron and his recovery. You somehow need to make time for yourself as well as caring for your injured child.

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Cameron also has a younger sister who was 7 at the time of the injury. What an amazing sister he has! Although she annoyed him as she tried to do exercises with him, she was always there! She often took a back seat to him. Our focus was Cameron and getting him better. Deep inside I believe she knew how serious of an injury this was and she just wanted her brother to be healthy again too! Believe me, she still played her sports, had playdates and had her own fun, but it was always Cameron’s needs first and then her’s. As a mother you have guilt giving more attention to one sibling over another, but the whole family had a goal to get him better, including his little sister. There is a balancing act with siblings and maybe I could have done better, but I did the best that I could do at the time of despair.

My final words of advice are:

If you find the best surgeon and the best physical therapist and you do the hard work, you will prevail and get better. The entire family must trust the process and the professionals that you chose. You will certainly all have ups and downs along this long road, but that is to be expected.

Life in general is very difficult and unfair at times with lots of twists and turns. This is just a big bump in the road that you all will overcome. The road will be smooth again soon!”


Cameron is now 11 years old, 2 years post-op, and is doing fantastic! His mother continues to “count the post-op years” and "celebrate his “knee anniversary”. She is absolutely thrilled to celebrate Cameron’s success after all that they have been through. Although her children are brave ACL warriors, there is no doubt that “mama bears” are a crucial part in their recovery as well.

Be sure to check out Cameron’s comeback story as well as an update on his comeback success! View comeback feature

Thank you Teresa for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!

 

 
 

perspectives

Pep Talk from the United States Olympic Committee Certified Trainer

athlete: ALExandrea CERVANTES


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“As a former collegiate athlete, fitness professional, and current Team USA Certified Trainer, I have had my fair share of injuries. The last thing I could have imagined was going through a third ACL surgery, but that is exactly what happened earlier this year. In May of 2018 I was scheduled for a complete ACL (allograft) replacement surgery. I had about 6 weeks to physically and most importantly, mentally prepare for my comeback.  It was grueling but with proper mental and physical preparation, I was able to come back a stronger person – both mentally and physically.

I owe a lot of my success to paving the road to the surgery with good intentions and intense mental preparation. I had the good fortune (if it can be called that) to be able to anticipate and prepare for this surgery in advance.  In most cases, ACL tears are sudden, painful, requiring immediate attention and the athlete goes under the knife almost immediately. This happened to 49ers quarterback Garoppolo, who had surgery within 2 weeks of his injury. This can be shocking to a person whose identity is strongly tied to their athletic abilities.   

One of the largest hurdles to overcome was to accept the fact that I was going to be physically out of commission for a couple of months. I, like every competitive athlete had been taught to suck it up and fight through the pain.  I knew this was not the way to go this time. I had to change my mindset, get this surgery, and allow my body to properly heal.

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Instead, I started to focus on things I couldn’t control, such as my training and my personal records. “What will people think of me at work? What if I gain weight? And what about the people I train – will they still respect me? , Would I still own the title of being Top Dog?” I entered what I call, “What If Land”, a place where you drive yourself crazy, thinking of all the wrong things that leave you running (hobbling in my case) around in an endless circle. I tormented myself until I made the conscious decision to shift my thinking. I’m naturally upbeat and I am that person who others go to when in need of seeing the bright side in even the worst of situations. In this case, I needed to take my own advice and put it into action.

Sadly, my shift in perspective did not come to me overnight; there was no epiphany that I woke up from as movies depict. In fact, it was a matter of years building up, 7-10 years to be exact, when I was tired of hearing that my hard work (as a college athlete and professional trainer) was not good enough. I kept coming up short; whether it was seeing 25 hours of practice a week being wasted after receiving  a “ no height” at my first heptathlon meet. Or being told since I was a girl and that I was no match for the male dominated industry. All the “no’s” I heard caused internal turmoil and literally sucked out so much of my energy. These “pep talks” did nothing but broke me down and I added to the fuel with negative self talk. I came across a self-help book and its principles were about perspective and the power of one’s energy; good and bad. Thankfully I have matured and grown which allowed me to do the following.

My first step was to set myself up with a 6-week program to get in shape for my surgery.  Physically, I knew what I needed to do to heal properly as I have a degree in kinesiology with an emphasis of therapeutic studies. My specialties in prevention of athletic injuries and my own experience with physical therapy gave me the ability to know exactly what my body would need. But mentally, I knew I was not as strong and needed to find a way to my strength.

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I sat down and listed all my concerns and fears, and looked for a solution to my problems. Writing out and seeing that I did have solutions, freed me of doubt, filled my mind with the all the positive possibilities, and gave me confidence in my abilities and talents. Telling myself I CAN and being proactive empowered me to stop wallowing in self-pity and take control of my recovery. It was not easy and it took constant effort to pursue the best version of myself. 

Second, I made sure to have a goal and a game plan to achieve that goal.  When I began to execute my plan, it gave me the assurance I needed to charge forward through rehab and recover efficiently and effectively.  I truly had to exercise my mental toughness and my ability to believe in myself to come out on top. Here I am 6 months later and I am mentally stronger and more physically fit than I was prior to my surgery. I’m a better version of myself because of how I approached and conquered one of my biggest challenges professionally and personally.

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During my 3-month hiatus, I learned valuable lessons that are important to everyone, but especially to athletes and to-be-Olympians. Focus on what you can control versus worrying about what you cannot. Then, control what you can control. Don’t concern yourself with the opinion of others, what you are missing out on, or how you will perform in 6 months - keep the focus on the NOW. By controlling and focusing on what you have power over will empower you to have a proactive can-do attitude instead of feeling hopeless and defeated. 

Yes, any injury is a setback, but you can make it a minor setback. The tough skin you build while recovering will clothe you with the confidence you will walk with for the rest of your life. As a top-level athlete and as a person who works with athletes at the top of their sport, I have seen that mental toughness is the one trait has that sets them apart from being good and being the best. The road to greatness is not an easy one and it is not meant to be - it is meant to test you so that when you are on the big stage you are ready for whatever comes your way!

After reading this, I hope you walk away with more vigor and the feeling that you will overcome any obstacle that comes your way, not because I said so, but because you CAN!”

- Alex “The Trainer “Cervantes

Master Trainer
United States Olympic Committee Certified Trainer
Be a Better You

FOLLOW her on ig: @alexthetrainer8

Thank you Alex for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!

 

 
 

perspectives - december 2018 

mom-thlete: an overly active, outgoing, positive mom who loves the gym


athlete: KINTA WENDT
FOLLOW her on ig: @WENDTFAMILY

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Being a Mom-thlete, you can’t slow down and you certainly can’t be sidelined.  Your family depends on your ability to run to each obstacle and tackle it. Then you have to switch gears and roll with the punches - all while protecting your house. 

Kinta Wendt is a 42-year old professional Mom-thlete and business woman.  Born in New York, raised in California, with a Texas soul, she lives with her loving husband Steve and extremely active daughter Kaitlyn in Kyle, Texas. She is officially the M.O.M. of her small community bank where she is the Mortgage Operations Manager.

Kinta’s therapy is the gym, where she has developed a tribe of other Mom-thletes who share a passion for lifting.  She never knew that an ACL tear would help her discover herself and further her business as The Fit Mortgage Chick.

Her track record didn’t start recently, but it’s the most recent ACL injury that made her come back stronger.  Seven years ago, Kinta tore her left ACL in her backyard when their labrador retriever, Pekoe, tackled the back of her knee in a full sprint.  She had the typical POP and instant fire in her knee that prompted her to go to the emergency room.  This led to surgery using a cadaver ACL to repair her knee.  She did the typical physical therapy but wasn’t active in her lifestyle like the present. 

Fast forward to May 2018, Kinta woke up and realized that her knee didn’t feel 100 percent. Seven years from the exact date, the doctor confirmed she blew through her ACL again.  Same knee, same month, seven years later... similar to baseball's 7th inning stretch. 

She wasn’t upset, but she didn’t cry. She knew EXACTLY what the game plan would be!  She had seen the game film and lived through it once. She knew the process, and being sidelined wasn’t an option.  With a family and business to run, she had to sprint into surgery and physical therapy.   This time was going to be different. Her amazing Orthopaedic Surgeon used her quad tendon to reconstruct her ACL. Kinta had built up extremely strong quads through lifting and this was a perfect option for a Mom-thlete. 

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Her only question was….How fast till I can get back into the gym?  Any good Momma knows how we love our “therapy” time, whatever your vice is.

The doctor said “as soon as you can walk without pain you can enter the gym and do upper body workouts”.  Surgery was on May 25, 2018. Kinta walked into the gym on June 6th, less than 2 weeks later, and returned to her workouts.   Knee brace and all, she knew that her mental game needed to stay stronger than ever. 

Her physical therapist, Dr. J, was warned by her orthopaedic surgeon. Yes that’s right. Her doctor walked into the PT office and discussed her ability to recover. Her doctor said:  "You will have to rein this one in, don’t let too much slack on the leash...she will take a mile".  If you knew her, this is true, she was motivated to get back to being 100 percent but knew the risk far outweighed her reward for returning to lift too early.  

So the conservative approach it was! Patience and positivity was the mascot for her team. If there is one thing she learned from reading Urban Meyer’s book, "Above The Line, it was that we can’t always control the events in our lives and we can’t always control the outcome… the only thing we can control is our reaction to the event. 

This Mom-thlete knew that her reaction to this injury was going to determine her outcome 110 percent.  She had a choice: to be negative and let this process take her down; or to rise above the line, stay positive, and move forward with a smile.  It’s not always easy to take the high road, it didn’t come without its fair share of trials, but she remained steady in her mental game. This mental attitude affected not only HER outcome... but that of everyone around her.

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She took to social media to help her recovery and will one day look back on this; showing her daughter that anything is possible with the right mental game in place.  Kinta never received a collegiate scholarship in sports, but being a mom and a wife taught her that above all else, you must stay positive and know that the comeback is so much sweeter than the setback.

Kinta is currently 6 months post-op and has no restrictions on lifting or squatting.  While she regains her strength, she is fully aware that her story is impacting hundreds of people within her community and social media community. Repeating the motto: “progress not perfection”, she knew that each day brought a new set of challenges.  Every morning she was grateful to take that one extra step without pain. Bending the knee would eventually get easier, and soon, this will pass.  Patience and positivity, these words echoed in her mind.

Recovery isn't a solo event, it took a village for Kinta and she would like to thank those special people:  Her husband Steve for his patience and love, Kaitlyn for helping mom every day, Dr. D for being the best Surgeon EVER, Dr. J and his team for being amazing in physiotherapy and making me laugh and smile through the pain. She also thanks her framily: Alexander, Dahse, Hagan, Hibbs, Hillman, Johnson, Keswick, McLaughlin, Mendoza, Morehead and Taylor.  Lastly, she is thankful for her local community, which always cheering her on, as well as the YMCA for being the best rehab facility in town.

Thank you Kinta for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!

 

 
 

perspectives - december 2018 

soccer player invited to join international soccer team after ACL tear


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athlete: CICILY PORTER
connect with her on ig: @CICILYPORTER

Cicily Porter is from a small town in Indiana, and has been playing soccer for as long as she can remember. Soccer has always been a huge part of her life - she was a score leader, a team player, and captain of her soccer team.

During her freshman year, Cicily and her teammate set a record, scoring a combined total of an impressive 50 goals in one season.

Competitive by nature, this year, she aimed to beat that record and her hopes were high. She scored 3 goals, and 6 assists, until… she tore her ACL. The three dreadful letters that no athlete ever wants to hear - especially not one who lived and breathed soccer since the age of 5.

She had only played 4 games that season, although she was a starting player in all four of those games. Rarely is she ever on the sidelines… however after the injury, she was forced to sit on the bench every game, watching her fellow teammates, wishing more than anything that she could be back on the field.

"After the games, I would cry because I wanted to play so badly. I don’t normally cry much, but that season, I cried three times”, she admitted.

Initially when she tore her ACL, she was in denial. She told herself that her injury was just a sprain; shrugging it off, and returning to the field within two weeks. She ran two laps, performed a few stretches, and then went back into the scrimmage. “It felt so good to be back. There was a cross coming, and I jumped to head it and ended up scoring… but when I landed, I heard that painful pop and fell to the ground”, she recalled.

It was not long after, that she found herself in the emergency room, replaying the events that had happened just a few hours ago. At that point, she had no idea what she was in for - she just wanted to get back to playing soccer again.

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Several hours later, the MRI results were out. The diagnosis: a torn ACL and meniscus.

When asked about her feelings, she told us, “I was so upset. I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t eat. I’ve never felt like this before”.

Despite the injury, she continued to attend every game and every practice to support her teammates. “There were a few of my senior teammates who were mad at me for getting hurt. That didn’t help”, she mentioned.

Her team ended up losing the first game. She felt terrible and helpless, not being able to do more to help her team.

She found the first week after surgery to be the toughest, mentally. She kept thinking about all of the negative possibilities - all the “what-ifs”. That was until she met her surgeon, Dr. Bernard Bach, who told her that he would treat her like his daughter - that gave her hope and reassurance that she was in good hands. She reminded herself that so many other athletes had been through this same struggle and injury that she was dealing with, and that she would get through it.

One week after surgery, she received an encouraging e-mail from an assistant coach of one of her dream colleges, University of Utah. That same week, she also learned that she had made the International soccer team for FC Revolution, and was invited to the North and South player games!

Today marks one month after surgery, and she already feels that she has never been stronger - mentally, that is. Committed and disciplined, she spends 2-3 hours each day in physical therapy, and is making good progress.

“This injury is a set back setting me up for a comeback”, she continues to remind herself.

"I thought tearing my ACL was the worst thing that could happen to me. But really, it has taught me so much. I would not be the person I am today without this injury. I learned that my love for soccer will never change. I still want to play at the next level. It keeps me motivated, and it gives me more to work for. I have conquered a mountain through my soccer journey. My coach once told me ‘the bumps in the road create the player you decide to be’. At the moment, I’m becoming the player I always dreamed of being”.

 

 
 

perspectives - december 2018 

how a bumblebee led to a torn ACL

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athlete: kerry morris

connect with her on ig: @thekerrygram

A vast majority of ACL injuries are a result of sports injuries such as sharp turn or pivot on the soccer field or a basketball court. However there are others who are faced with an ACL tear as a result of freak accidents.

For Kerry Morris, jogger and frequent gym goer, her ACL tear happened when she tried to kill a bumblebee on her sofa with her sneaker. Never would she have expected that it would have resulted in an ACL surgery and a 9-12 month recovery process.

Like many others, she did not have a clue what an ACL, MCL, or PCL was at the time of the injury.

Kerry shares her story and journey through recovery, which many of you will be able to relate to, whether or not you are an athlete.


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I want to share an all too common, but not “popular” injury, tearing an ACL along with my story, to help the XCLevation community as well as others recovering from this injury. 

You often see this injury in soccer, basketball, softball, martial arts - athletes. But what about your common fitness guru? Your 20-something who falls on the dance floor who hikes every Monday, or a mom working 9-5 with three kids who slips and falls in the shower who loves Zumba… or me, someone who tried to kill a hornet on her sofa with her sneaker; who hikes, kayaks, bikes - you name it!

I had a summer planned of activities, and now they have all been cancelled and put off for a year, in order to deal with this recovery - that’s right - anywhere from 9 to 12 months. 

I have been using the social media platform of Instagram (my handle @thekerrygram) to inspire and help myself and others through my experiences and physical therapy exercises (via sharing pictures and videos). 

The ACL community is a strong one, and we all help and support each other - whether it’s sharing ideas like kinesiology tape, reps, or posture. I never knew I would grow into a community of such strong women and men who are from all walks of life and pulled together by a common bond and injury. This is a slow, strenuous recovery and patience is required, BUT I wouldn’t change a thing because I’m wiser and tougher for it. 

So here’s what happened:

On May 3, 2018, at approximately 7:30 PM, my life changed and took a course unimaginable, unforeseeable to me or anyone around me. I tore my ACL, also known as the anterior cruciate ligament. “A what?! who?”

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So there I was, just coming home from a typical run outside. A bumblebee was buzzing around my living room and landed on my couch. I threw my left leg up on my couch to kill it…

The bee got loose.

I spooked - and my leg went down. My knee twisted in a different position... a FLUKE incident.....

and POP!

Pain!

Blinding misery, sweat, pounding the floor, screaming “WHAT HAVE I DONE?! Can I walk on it?” 

If you are anyone like me, a 30-something jogger and gym goer three times a week, you do not have a clue about sports injuries; not the faintest idea what in the world an ACL, MCL, PCL is.... If you drop to the floor in excruciating pain, your first thought is that you most definitely broke a bone…

..but NOPE that’s not it, because THAT would be too easy. 

So what comes next? ... The dreaded Orthopaedic appointment - the X-ray, and finally the FINAL say: The MRI. “We need to make sure you didn’t do damage to a ligament, we will call you with results.”

A call on a Friday night at 4:49 PM (after googling possible knee injuries all day and thinking “OK as long as I didn’t tear my ACL I will be OKAY", maybe it’s a sprained MCL...”), the doctors tell me: I’m sorry but you have completely torn your ACL. Unfortunately at this stage of the game, being young and active, it’s a no brainer to have surgery…

(I thought, "SURGERY?! I’ve never had surgery before!” - cut to the anxious, nervous, hard to swallow truth.)

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Surgery is optional, however if you opt out, you opt out of a normal active lifestyle... normal as I see it, no more pivoting ... and jumping.... and your knee turns into a ticking time bomb for buckling, at any given time. 

Your options are to replace your torn ligament with:

(1) Hamstring 
(2) Patella
(3) Cadaver (allograft - donor)
(4) Quad 

I was to partake in 6 weeks of physical therapy and work on my full ROM (range of motion). My knee and leg had to be strong for the surgery and recovery. 

On 5/11, I started physiotherapy and worked with an amazing therapist. I was able to come off crutches and a knee brace after four weeks and then walk normally. Surgery was scheduled 6/26. 

This is one of the few injuries that will require PT prior to the surgery to strengthen. Once you tear your ACL you lose your quad strength and calf strength. For a smooth recovery post-surgery, you want all the strength you can muster because you will become weak again. 

This journey is one of patience, determination, and strength - both mental and physical. It has the lowest of lows and highest of highs. Your active lifestyle may be on pause for months, but your recovery builds a stronger, tougher, inner strength. You have to celebrate the victories no matter how big or small, whether that’s going from two crutches to one, or putting a sock on by yourself. It is a true journey.  

Physical therapy is absolutely essential to recovery and it brought back my confidence from the depths of despair post-surgery in incremental steps of two crutches to one crutch, to a cane, to limping, and building back muscle to confidently walk without assistance. Each week, you will surprise yourself with amazing strides whether it’s the degrees of flexion or your extension, or the ability to perform your first mini squat or get up from a chair. All of these things will build back your confidence. For example, my shining moment was noticing with a grin that I was leaning my elbow on my surgical knee while I was sitting on my bed with my heel raised.

My point is that your normalcy will come back and you will smile when you notice it. 

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I also want to mention  that a crucial support system is absolutely necessary. Whether it’s helping you do laundry, make meals or shower, you need assistance the first month, as your body is recovering and you will be weaker than you think. Every movement will require thought like never before, until you are strong again. 

At 5 months post-surgery now, personally, I can attest to the fact that my knee does not quite feel “normal.” My knee is now facing a new normal, in that I have to work harder to bring it back to where it used to be. The stairs are still a struggle, specifically stepping down (there is more pain after a gym or physiotherapy session). You have to work on your knee every other day. You have to want the strength and power - like needing oxygen to breathe, exercise provides your knee and leg the muscle with the strength that it needs. I am someone who loves running, and I have built up to roughly ten minutes at 4.7 mph (pre-injury I ran 6.7 mph) at this point, and each month, it gets better. I can now hop, squat, squat jump, balance, perform single leg dead lifts, single leg squats and stretch continuously. This is a work in progress, not a race or competition. You work everyday on yourself, for yourself. 

One piece of advice I received from PT along the way, was never to exercise back-to-back days because you need to provide your body time to rest in between sessions. 

I want people to know that there is hope. You have to push yourself with each rep, with each exercise and that somewhere in the hopelessness of recovery you will build character. You will build a new you, a new life, a new ACL. 

~ Kerry

 

 
 

perspectives - november 2018 

the emotional rollercoaster through five knee surgeries

athlete: stephie meyer

check out her website here // connect with her on ig: @stephie_meyer

Stephie Meyer, 28-year old, is a former electrical engineer turned fashion stylist living in Seattle, Washington. She played competitive soccer her entire life and into college, where she was asked to walk-on and join Purdue’s Division I program. Following college, she coached high school girls soccer both at the club and school level for 4 years. Coaching and connecting with players is something that a knee injury can't stop her from doing and she has found it to be one of her most rewarding soccer experiences. 

Stephie shares her story and raw emotions of the experience through the recovery. She opens up about the mental side of the injury and the thought of having to give up the game of soccer a lot sooner than she would have ever thought. All of the emotions that come through in the video sum up how she has felt throughout all 5 of her knee surgeries. The frustration, the angst, the physical and psychological toll, the loss, and also the fight and the courage to get through things one would never expect to experience once - let alone multiple times. 

 
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