Overcoming an ACL tear
By Kelsey Luke
Before my body even hit the ground, I knew. I tore my ACL.
An ACL means this: no soccer for eight months, surgery, rehab and the constant mental battle of removal from your sport. I couldn’t stop crying, sobbing honestly.
I still had some hope that perhaps I was overreacting and my knee was only tweaked.
That hope was quickly gone when I got the call with my MRI results: it was completely torn.
For the first half of that day, I kept to myself unsure what to do or even think. I eventually called my dad to tell him the news. He reminded me of how many female soccer players have went through this surgery, recovered and came back. My mother reminded me of the same thing, “you’ll come back better than before,” she told me. My brother used the classic Adiran Peterson example to explain how he bounced back and then had a record-breaking season.
Hopefully I come back like Peterson, I thought to myself semi jokingly.
In all seriousness though, there wasn’t anything productive in thinking about what if I hadn’t torn my ACL, because I had, and now it was up to me to face it.
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 at how lucky I was to have my dad here helping me through what I thought would be the hardest phase.
However, surprisingly, surgery was the easiest part of the whole process. The months following consisted of hours of physical therapy every day. I was dripping sweat solely from pain reactivating muscles that I could hardly flex, crying trying to extend my leg fully, and doubting myself with every step and and one-legged excersise. Despite this, physical therapy was still not the hardest part– the mental battle was.
I had never taken a break from soccer that was longer than a couple of weeks in at least eight years. I began to accept that my role was to observe and study my team play, hoping that soon I would be back a more tactical soccer play. I studied the players that were in my forward position. I watched how they moved, how they passed, what they did well and what they could have done better.
Although on the sideline, leg elevated and closely watching from the outside I got to witness my team have an amazing season. They won the America East Conference and went on to face Penn State in the tournament. I may have not been on the field as a champion, but I still felt the joy and surrealness of winning it all– I was still a part of this team.
Now, I am back playing. I had that 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. It’s been ten months, I am a different person mentally because I know I can come back from a sport that kept me out of something that had defined me for so long.