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Overcoming an ACL tear

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Before my body even hit the ground, I knew. I tore my ACL.

It wasn’t until I started thinking about the implications of a torn ACL – at least eight months out of playing soccer, the surgery, the constant rehab – that I started crying. Sobbing, I should say. Of course, I still had a small glimmer of hope that I was overreacting and my knee was only tweaked. All remaining hope was gone by the next morning when I got my MRI results.

For the first half of that day, I sat, unmotivated and down. I called my dad to tell him the news. Soon, everyone in my family knew and I got calls, some saying how sorry they were and others like my brother, saying, “Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and came back to have a record-breaking season the next season.” My mom and dad reminded me of how many of my friends from soccer have gone through an ACL recovery and came back just as good, if not better, than before. I tried to take their advice and see some light.

Something in my mind clicked. I realized there was nothing I could do to change the fact that I had a torn ACL, so there was no reason to sulk. Given my competitive nature, I decided that this injury was something that I like going to beat, just like an opponent in soccer.

A month later, I got surgery. My dad flew out from Colorado, where I’m from, to take care of me for the week. That is when I decided to look for a silver lining in everything through the whole process. This silver lining: getting to spend a week with my dad.

Surprisingly, surgery was the easiest part of the whole process. The months following consisted of hours of physical therapy every day. Despite the fact that I was dripping sweat solely from pain, PT was still not the hardest part. The hardest thing of it all wasn’t even physical, it was mental. The absolute worst part was watching my team play and not being a part of it.

Still, I found a silver lining. I had never taken a break from soccer that was longer than a couple of weeks in at least eight years. It was a unique opportunity to be able to just watch my team play for an entire season. I studied the players that play in my position (forward). I watched how they moved, how they passed, what they did well and what they could have done better. Now, I can honestly say that I understand my position on the field better than I ever have.

My team had an amazing season. They won the America East Conference and went on to face Penn State in the tournament. By that time, I had adjusted to being a spectator rather than a player, and I felt pure joy and excitement watching my team become champions.

I got an uncanny high the first time I was able to touch a ball again and actually dribble and shoot. In that moment, I knew that it was all of the pain, physical and mental, was worth it.

Ten months out of surgery now, I am a different person than I was. This was the first hard thing that I had to deal with in my life and I learned so much about myself, the game, and life in general. I know now that the gift of playing soccer, just like anything, can be taken away in a split second. Every time I step on the field now, I have a new appreciation for the sport and I am here to love every second of it. Even though I wasn’t on the field during the America East Championship, I still won – I beat the ACL tear.

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