pro spotlight

motivational spotlight: Matt Poland

ATHLETE: Matt poland, professional soccer player

Matt Poland has been a professional soccer player for the past 4 years. Prior to tearing his ACL and meniscus, he played for Sporting Kristina in Finland in 2018 and 2015. In 2016-2017, he played for Savsjo FF in Sweden. He graduated from Taylor University in Indiana where he played varsity soccer prior to moving to Scandinavia (Sweden and Finland).

We will be following him through his recovery towards a comeback and sharing his journey with you here. Watch Episode 1-2 and check out his interview below.


Q&A with professional soccer player, Matt Poland

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1) Can you share your ACL story?

On August 10th I was playing in a soccer game over in Finland,  15 minutes into the game I was tracking the forward into the corner.  I tried to turn and my foot got stuck in the ground and I heard a sound like a branch cracking and fell to the ground.  I got up off the ground and walked off the field knowing that something was seriously wrong.  I had an MRI soon after and discovered I had a complete ACL tear and a complex meniscus tear.  I flew back to the USA and had surgery at Mayo Clinic on August 21st.   Upon coming out of surgery I discovered the severity of my meniscus tear.  My surgeon said that 90% of surgeons would have just removed it and not tried to even fix it.  Because of this my protocol for the first 10 weeks meant crutches with 10 pounds of weight bearing on the injured knee and no more than 90 degrees of Flexion.

2) What has been the hardest part of the experience so far?

So far there have been 2 things that have been very difficult. The first is having to slow down and forcing myself to stay inactive for much of the day to allow the meniscus the best opportunity to heal.  As a professional athlete I am constantly on the go and it has been difficult to learn to just sit still.  The biggest area however of difficulty is the mental side of the injury.  With every new step or phase of rehab the overcoming of fears and gaining confidence has been major.  Trusting that my knee can handle whatever exercise I am doing has been difficult at times.  Also the negative self talk and worrying about the future and how it will be to play again (even though there is no value to worrying) has been a daily struggle with me.

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3) How have you stayed motivated through the recovery? 

I stayed motivated through the process in a few ways.  This whole journey is like CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN!  It won’t happen easily or quickly, but slow determined steps will allow me to complete the journey.  One way to motivate myself was making sure I never felt sorry for myself and saw each day as a challenge to only better myself from the day before.  I also tried to focus on helping others during this time.  I realized when I spent my energy encouraging others it made my problems seem less important and kept me motivated.  

4) How do you think the recovery experience is different for pro athletes vs. recreational athletes?

I think there are some differences between a professional athlete and a weekend warriors rehab process.  As a professional athlete it puts your career on hold while recovering and there is a fear you will never get back to the elite level you need to be to play again.  I also have as much time as I need each day to rehab because that is the only thing I have going on and I do not need to figure out how to do my rehab between work and other responsibilities. 

5) What advice would you share with other athletes on the road to recovery from an ACL injury?

My advice to athletes is to work on other passions that you have during this time of rehab.  As a professional athlete my career has been all consuming working on my craft.  While being injured I have had time to explore other interests in my life.  Spend the time helping others and do not make the whole rehab process just about you.   That is how I started this video documentary series.  I created it as a way to give back and share my story with others to let them know they are not alone.

6) Do you think this experience has changed you as a person?

Definitely!  This experience has changed me a great deal.  It has been difficult at times, but I believe that it has helped to grow me in many ways.  I have learned not to take the little things like being able to walk and drive for granted.  I also believe it has given me more empathy and realizing everyone is CLIMBING THEIR MOUNTAIN whether it is physical or mentally, everyone is struggling with something and needs encouragement.

Thank you Matt for taking the time to share our experience and journey with the XCLevation community!

inspired? FOLLOW matt poland ON InstaGram: MATTPOLAND16