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.
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.
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.
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.