Lene is a 27 year-old athlete who lives in Uppsala, Sweden with her partner and their one year old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever called Soren. She is studying at Uppsala University to become an upper secondary school teacher in Swedish and English. Her main passion in life, however, is rugby. She plays for the club Uppsala Rugby Football Club and is aiming to make a comeback in March for the Swedish Rugby XVs team in England and hopefully the 7’s team in Germany in April.
FOLLOW LENE ON IG: @l.lykke
Q&A with Lene
1) Can you share your ACL story?
It was pretty stupid, a teammate of mine accidentally fell over me at training and I heard a loud crack and felt a sharp pain. I had previously done knee surgery not related to my ACL and I thought it was only a torn muscle. It hurt but not too bad, it wasn’t unstable at all. I avoided leg training and running and played two 7s days after that day. The last game hurt so bad that I had to get of the field. I was mostly frustrated even though in a lot of pain and was lucky to see a knee specialist only two days after that last game. He thought it was the meniscus that was broken and told me straight up that if I wanted to keep on playing I would need surgery. I got surgery about a month later in another county about 2 hours away from where I live.
I woke up after surgery and the surgeon told me that there were good news and bad news. I couldn’t hold anything in and bursted out in tears before he even start talking. I felt super scared that this would be it, I couldn’t play anymore. The doctor told me that the good news was that my meniscus looked great. However my ACL was completely torn off. But it had broke where it attaches at the knee, in addition with the fact that I got surgery so quickly, they managed to sew my existing ACL back doing a satur instead of a reconstruction.
This type of surgery makes the recovery a bit different compared to a reconstruction. My partner drove me home from hospital and I even jumped on crutches down to training the same night to say hi to the team. In retrospect that was not the smartest, I should have just stayed home. The day after I went to he gym and did a lot of upper body stuff and even walked in stairs. I had no idea that the reason I could walk so good was because of all the painkillers I got under surgery and the days after it really hit me.
Fortunately, I got a tip at my cross-fit gym about this really good physiotherapist named Fredrik Hedby who I saw about a week after the operation. From the very first day he gave me clear instructions and training schedule. He was in charge over rehab and cardio while I still training my own upper body strength on top of that. After only two months I ran for the first time, even if very shortly, and at the Swedish national 7s fitness test in November, five months after surgery, I only did bench and chins but managed to hit new official numbers in both.
2) What was the hardest part of the recovery process?
I think it was my sense of belong in combination with identity. Rugby is not something I do once in awhile but I AM a rugby player and not being able to play was extremely frustration. In combination I have never done as good at the fitness tests as I did just before the injury so I was really looking forward to being back playing for Sweden after a year abroad.
Even if the national team is my big goal, not being a part of the club team also felt really lonely. It’s not that your mates are not there but suddenly you can’t be a part of a certain context. Sure you go and see all the games but you are on the wrong side of the sideline. Furthermore I found it hard feeling that I was doing “enough”. Once you are used to training at a certain level sitting and bending you leg not feeling any muscle soreness or increased heart rate was terrible. You just don’t get the kicks that you get out of your sport!
3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?
For me it was the thought of getting back playing for the national team. I love playing club rugby but national level is something else. My team mates from the club and from the national team were really supportive and I feel that I’ve become closer to many of them because you share the hard times as well. In addition I started training at a new gym just months before the injury and the community and atmosphere at Cross-fit Uppsala made it fun. I wanted to go to the gym to take part of the positive atmosphere and sense of belong that I found at the box. Special thanks to coaches Katarina Boman and Martin Altemark who always pushes and motivates. Furthermore I stayed motivated by seeing progress. My physio Fredrik really made sure that my programs were progressing in a steady tempo even if that sometimes meant taking a step back.
My partner also played a huge role in keeping me “sane” and supporting me throughout my journey. By having someone to ventilate my frustration, and joy when there was progress, I think it made it easier to deal with even though I did not have the same feeling of belonging to a team. Its was also self-evident that he’d help me getting back and forth to rehab, trainings, work, school, ect. In a sense he has played a massive part as he got to sit through my endless “stream of consciousness” - sessions based on both happiness and frustration.
4) What advice would you share with other athletes recovering from this injury?
It takes time. Don’t be too hard on yourself and take it for what it is. If you can do upper body stuff - get a schedule that trains you upper body then, in combination with your rehab of course. Don’t stress to get back, no one will thank you for getting back a month earlier than planned and then breaking again so listen to you body. Sometimes taking a step back is actually taking a step forward. Take it more easy than you think the first couple of weeks and let the body heal! I did not and had to pay for it later during the rehab.
5) How has this injury changed you?
I can appreciate a good session a lot more. It sounds really cheesy and of course I have sessions when I just wanna go home but to stop and “feel” a bit more. I think I understand some of my teammates and what they are struggling with a bit more. I feel I’ve grew closer to some by sharing the whole rehab process honestly and openly. It turns out that many have similar thoughts and feelings which I have benefited from knowing.
Thank you Lene for sharing your experience and helping to inspire athletes across the globe!
SPECIAL THANKS TO KEY PLAYERS IN HER RECOVERY:
Thomas Ericsson, SURGEON
Fredrik Hedbys, PHYSIOTHERAPIST
Katarina Boman and Martin Altemark, trainers at Crossfit Uppsala
Anton Nystroem, partner
Uppsala Rugby Club and national team players