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.
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.