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.
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.
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.
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.