Kindyll Wetta is a sophomore in high school from Castle Rock, Colorado. She has two dogs and a younger sister and enjoys snowboarding and paddle boarding. She has played sports her entire life, and despite the devastating injury, she is not letting that stop her from her dream of playing D1 basketball in college.
1) Can you share your ACL story?
Going into my 9th grade year I started getting attention from D1 colleges. I had a really good start to my first high school season and everything seemed to be going in my favor… until it wasn’t. I tore my ACL in the 4th quarter of a basketball game closing out. When I planted to jump, my left knee rotated inward, collapsed and made a loud POP. I had to be carried off the court and was checked out by a doctor who said that I had torn my ACL. Immediately, I broke out in tears thinking how just a minute ago I was out on the court sprinting up and down the floor and now THIS. It was surreal how quickly my life and plans turned upside down. “This can’t happen to me,” is what I told my parents through all the tears. I had heard stories about other athletes that had torn their ACL’s but in my mind, I was invincible and something like this could never happen to me. The following week we went to a couple doctors and found out that, yes, I had torn my ACL and later that I had also torn my meniscus, which would add more strain and stress to my recovery process. After surgery, I was on crutches for 6 weeks because of my meniscus tear--having crutches in the middle of winter is NOT a pleasant experience. Rehab started soon after that. At first it is pretty slow because you have to reteach your leg how to be a leg (all your thigh muscle magically disappears after surgery). When rehab started to pick up, I found that I actually enjoyed it, mostly because I LOVED my physical therapist and the rest of the staff! I rehabbed at Physio Pro in downtown Colorado and still go there once a week to get a workout in! They not only pushed me really hard in my rehab, but they made it TONS of fun! Every day was something new and they design your rehab specifically to your sport. I am so thankful for Physio Pro because had I been anywhere else there’s no way I would’ve had as much fun! The rest of recovery went by fast and just like that, I’m back on the court now doing what I love!
2) What was the hardest part of the experience?
Physically, the hardest part is the first 2 weeks post-op. I still vividly remember the excruciating throbbing pain when I would stand up and all the blood would rush to my foot (after surgery the circulation in your leg gets all funky). Post-op, my leg was really stiff and it hurt to move it even the slightest bit, which made sleeping almost impossible. The first week I only got 3-4 hours of sleep a night which made for many rough mornings. Fitting into cars while wearing a straight leg brace is yet another challenge I had to face, as well as: Getting dressed, carrying things while trying to crutch my way around, getting up icy stairs, and the god awful knee-high compression socks you must wear after surgery. Ice became my best friend after surgery and through the recovery process!
As if the physical pain wasn’t enough, mentally it is a draining, emotional process, not only for you but for those around you. My initial thought after I got hurt was that my life was over. Basketball is my thing and when my thing was taken away from me I thought I had nothing. I tried my best to stay positive and wasn’t always successful. I doubted my ability to not only come back strong, but to be able to handle the strain that being injured puts on your life. Was my injury going to make me worse? Would it limit me when I came back? There were so many questions. That summer was supposed to be a HUGE recruiting time for me, and naturally, I worried A LOT about missing it. Now that I am 9 months post op and 7 weeks post return to sport I realize that none of my constant concerns and worries were necessary. Actually, I found that it was quite the opposite. I feel so much stronger when I play, my skills have improved, and I’m still the same player I was before getting injured.
3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?
I’m not going to lie, the rehab process SUCKS. It’s long and hard and filled with emotions. At times, it seems like it’s taking forever. Thankfully, I had the best rehab staff who made it so much more enjoyable. I also had a lot of support from family, coaches, and other athletes during this whole process. About a week or two after I tore my ACL, my assistant coach gave me a couple of letters from some of her former teammates who had torn their ACL’s. Hearing what other athletes who have already been through this process—some multiple times— have to say is really reassuring and at the time it gave me hope. It also put me in my place and made me recognize that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself because so many other people have and were going through the same thing as me. Rely on those around you to help!
I was so worried that somehow my injury was going to screw up how I played basketball, and that fear of not being good when I came back definitely served as a motivator. I made sure that I was still getting in shots at the gym and figuring out ways to keep up my skill so I didn’t fall behind. As far as rehab goes, I knew the harder I worked and the stronger I got, the faster I would start being able to jump and shoot and run again. It important that you look forward and don’t dwell on the past. What’s done is done, so it is useless to keep wishing it hadn’t happened. Instead set a goal that you can obtain through your rehab time. For me, I told myself that I wanted to get my upper body and core stronger as well as develop my touch on the ball. Knowing that I was still improving even though I wasn’t able to do much helped me keep pushing.
4) What advice would you give to other athletes recovering from an ACL reconstruction?
Don’t cheat your rehab. The harder you work the easier it will be to come back and jump right into a game. My only regret is that I didn’t focus on my cardio as much as I should’ve. My first couple games would’ve been a lot easier if I had gotten myself in better shape. Nothing bad has ever come out of going the extra mile. Do things on your own, not just when you go to PT and your future self will thank you for it. Remember that this is a long process and you don’t want to move too fast. Be patient with your rehab and know that your therapist/doctors have your best interest.
5) What have you learned from this experience?
One of the most annoying things after I got hurt was when someone would tell me it’s all going to work out and that God has a plan for me. I would smile and thank them, but in my head, I was thinking, “This person has no right to say that because it’s not happening to them.”; however, now that I am recovered, I’m going to be that annoying person, because it’s true! If I could go back and plant the right way and prevent my injury, I wouldn’t change anything. God puts obstacles in our lives because it makes us strong and shapes who we are. Being injured forced me to take a step back from all the action and thrill of playing basketball and just observe. I learned to appreciate basketball from more of a coach’s standpoint. My biggest takeaway from this journey was to never take anything for granted. Not just your sport or being healthy, but everything: family, friends, etc, because in a split second everything can change. If you are reading this and you are about to/ are going through an ACL tear, remember that God won’t give you anything that you can’t handle and it truly will be ok! Have confidence in yourself and in those around you to help you get over this bump in the road!