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
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
Ian Hallworth, Physiotherapist
Jack Haworth, Physiotherapist
Craig Wilson, Physiotherapist
Declan Morris, Strength & Conditioning Coach
Nelson Lau, Strength & Conditioning Coach
Dana Perkin, Strength & Conditioning Coach