Kendall Duncan has been dealing with knee injuries throughout her 4-year high school career. She started playing basketball at the age of 5 and fell in love with the game and has been playing ever since. For her entire life, her dream has been to play women's college basketball - however her knee had other plans. She recently had her 3rd knee surgery and ACL reconstruction, but is still fighting the fight!
1) Can you share your ACL story?
I first tore my knee up playing basketball freshman year of high school. I tore my meniscus, cracked femur, shattered knee cap, and had horrible bone bruises. That led me into having 2 major knee surgeries. I was out for 13 months for recovery. So I missed my freshman & sophomore year of playing basketball. I was good to go by my junior year. Although I tweaked my knee in a game that season, but didn’t do anything about it. My knee eventually got worse throughout the summer & wasn’t feeling it’s best by the time senior year rolled in. I was elevated with a partially torn ACL. My doc said I could play the season through the pain or have surgery to go ahead & fix it.
Of course I chose to I play my entire senior b-ball season with a torn ACL in a knee brace and I dominated, leading my team to state playoffs. It was definitely challenging, mentally and physically, I would be aggravated with my knee not being able to do certain stuff in practice & living in pain the entire season because as the season progressed, my leg was getting worse. I stuck it out being the strong willed, determined athlete I am. I actually had the best season despite the leg, we had a great season along with my family, team, and coaches supporting me the whole way. I finally had ACL reconstruction one month after the season. My ACL by then was absolutely shredded.
I’m now 10 weeks post op & I’m hanging in here during the hardest recovery ever since my knee has been through so much in 3 knee surgeries. People think I’m crazy for going through of all this and still wanting to play the game of basketball. I’ve proved a lot of people wrong, I do this and continue to rehab because who I am and for the love of the game. I still have people who look at me and are stunned that of what I did my senior year playing through the pain with a torn ACL, I did it because I was strong enough and for the game.
2) What was the hardest part of the experience?
Hardest part to me is being able to stay strong and think positive when you feel like your world is falling apart. You have to be able to stay motivated through these recoveries. The question of “Why Me?” is always constant on my mind, like why did this happen in the first place to me. The mental side of this injury is definitely harder than physical sometimes.
There are times where I want to give up because I’ve been through so much and I’m getting sick of it. But I have to stop myself because there’s no way I will ever give up, I just have to get through the hard parts. Also, my entire life I have been wanting to play college basketball, I only played 2 years of high school basketball due to my knee, but I trained & played hard to make sure to make up for it. I had the chance to play and opportunities from some small schools, but I knew after my senior season, I had to get my leg fixed and put my basketball shoes up for a while. I think that’s the hardest part I’m struggling with now is if I’ll play basketball again. I have days now where I don’t want to do anything and just have hard “mental days”, where it is hard to think positive about everything because all I want to do is be better and free of pain, but it takes time.
3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?
Being an athlete that has been through so much, reminds me that I can do anything I put my mind to. I know that God has a plan despite everything that has happened to me. It has been tough, this last surgery has been the worst recovery so far. It's mind-boggling when you're on your 3rd recovery & all you want to do is be that athlete you once were and get back on that court.
I always tell myself that I can do anything because I’m a strong woman and I have to get through this to get back to my active life. People act like they know what I’ve been through, but they don’t. You have to go through it in order to understand.
4) What advice would you share with other athletes on the road to recovery?
Advice I would give is to just know it will get hard and challenging to the point where you might want to give up but do not. It’s not worth it. You’re an athlete, you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s a long recovery, but you just have to stay on top of your rehab and think positive. I know injuries are not fun at all. I’ve been dealing with one for 4 years and counting now. There the worst things ever in my eyes for athletes.
I’ve lived through a comeback to playing basketball after 13 months of rehab from my first 2 surgeries and it was the best feeling ever. The struggle and the adversity is all so worth it. No athlete is truly tested until they’ve endured an injury and come out on the other side stronger than ever. The comeback is always stronger and better than your setback. You have to be at your strongest when you feel at your weakest. Remember to celebrate your small victories as well! :)
5) Do you think these experiences have changed you as a person?
Definitely has changed me as a person. These obstacles and journey has made me so much stronger and realize that things never go the way you planned, but it’s the way you respond and look at the situation. You can either let it take over you by not doing anything, or take control and go through the storm to get to the top again. I’ve been through a lot the past few years, and I know that I’m not the same person as I was when I first got injured. It has also made me appreciate things in life more. I never knew how easy and quick the game could be taken from me. I was an all star basketball player and never knew this would happen to me. I appreciate things more in life now and don’t take anything for granted.