Charlotte Campbell is a lacrosse goalkeeper from Lloyd Harbor, Long Island. She's been playing lacrosse since she was little (around 4th grade, which is actually “late” for a Long Islander), and considered lacrosse to be, outside of school and academics, one of the few things she was very good at that was useful to other people. That was important to her as she has wanted to join the Navy Medical Corps since the age of 6 - she is a service-oriented person.
1) Can you share your ACL story?
My ACL year was the very first serious injury I had ever received (even though I had been playing sports for so long), and it happened my senior year of high school at St. Anthony’s while playing Manhasset High School - I planted my foot to make a save, and since the turf I was playing on was quite old and ill tended to (which is a kind way of saying extremely lumpy), my foot became stuck and my momentum caused me to tear my ACL completely (it came right off my femur, I remember seeing the MRI photos and being equal parts fascinated and horrified). My doctor gave me two options: get the surgery now and give myself as much time to recover as I could, or, get fitted for a titanium brace and keep playing after 2 weeks of rest. I went with the latter option, and after winning the Catholic League Championships one last time, I got the surgery.
2) What was the hardest part of the experience?
That leads me right into what I considered the hardest part for me, which was the recovery - the bone deep weariness of having to deal with this injury, day in and day out, the fact that is just would not go away was so physically and mentally draining, that every single scrap of progress I could make was at the same time exhilarating as well as demoralizing, since there just seemed like there was always so much more to do until I could be deemed “all better”. It didn’t help that at the time I was really overweight (around 230 pounds), the weight around which I had always been and had seemed healthy enough to me, but it made all the customary aches of recovery that much worse. It reminded me of learning about trench war fare during the Second World War - that it was a battle of inches, and it felt like every inch I gained was killing a little part of me slowly.
3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?
What kept me motivated was a mixture of love, spite, and great familial support. I loved lacrosse so much that not playing just felt like another physical pain, and I knew that as soon as I heard those magic words “you’re cleared”, then it would be that much easier to keep moving and recovering to a point where I could come back to the sport even better than I had left it. The spite, or rather pettiness, was a motivator in that I wanted to prove people, especially coaches and doctors, wrong, in that I could, theoretically at least, be ready to play again sooner rather than later, in order to help my team. After all, I hadn’t strapped my 5 working ligament knee into a fancy brace and played another month feeling like a busted marionette just to have someone tell me “there is no possible way you could work hard enough to be ready in a few months”. My spite was, I’m a little ashamed to say, a very powerful motivator. Lastly, and most importantly my biological family, as well as my chosen family (friends, teammates, etcetera) were all rooting for me, and it’s much easier to play well when the stands are cheering your name, I think any athlete can attest to that.
4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?
I think the best advice I could give an athlete that was forced unwillingly onto this recovery road is to NOT block out the pain - if you try to force yourself to just be a formidable unfeeling rock, it’ll burn you out before you can even recover to the point where bending your leg doesn’t cause anguish. What is more productive (as well as realistic) is to accept the pain and try and work with it as opposed to against it - a house divided cannot stand, and fighting with yourself and beating yourself up over feeling badly will only make you more frustrated - it’s a vicious cycle and an easy one to fall into. This doesn’t mean I encourage constant moaning and lamentation - but to be honest with yourself and to not wage a mental war against your convalescing body goes a long way into allowing you to recover faster. Accept and push through, but don’t ignore - that’s a sure fire way to get yourself back on the operating table.
5) Do you think these experiences changed you as a person?
I would say this experience had changed me greatly as a person. Physically in particular; I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I never wanted this to happen again, and decided that the best way to prevent another grievous injury was to get myself into actual shape - which meant losing weight. I’m 65 pounds lighter, and about 1000 times happier for it- which is something I’d never thought I’d say or do, as I had always assumed I was just bigger than most people my age. Mentally, I’d like to think that I’m tougher, but perhaps I’m just more accepting of what my body throws at me now, and the knowledge that “I’ve been through worse” really does make a run test much easier, to be honest with you (not by much, but enough to just take the edge off a Manchester). I’ll never be a midfielder, but I’m certainly much healthier than any previous version of myself, which is something I never would have achieved without this injury. Some athletes a just one serious injury away from their playing their best, and I’m sincerely hoping that this is true in my case.