From the moment my daughter went down on the soccer field, my guts told me what we’d be facing. But there wasn’t any way to truly prepare for the emotions her ACL injury would invoke. It has been just shy of a full lunar cycle since the incident—26 days—only one week out of surgery, and already I feel like a seasoned veteran of the course that is the treatment of an ACL injury.
Since 220,000 female athletes under the age of 21 face this specific injury each year, and I have personally now witnessed too many of these plant-twist-pop-collapse episodes to count, I believe it’s important to document our experience. Those with children who have torn their ACLs will relate and empathize, and those who are at the very beginning of this journey toward repair and rehabilitation will hopefully appreciate and learn from our experience. (ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament, which is one of the four major ligaments in the knee). And if you’re the parent of an athlete—especially a soccer or basketball player—please take note of the statistics and add ACL prevention training to your kid’s regular workout.
We are filled with gratitude for so many friends who have helped us through the process so far. For a while, it seemed as though a day didn’t go by where I didn’t hear from or learn of another young athlete who had torn his/her ACL. It’s sad how many we know, but also knowing we’re not alone has been healing in itself.
First of all, in case you haven’t been on the sidelines of a thousand soccer games, I’ve compiled a very brief video with three examples of the typical defensive move made by Willow (#24) during any given game, which was the same move that led to her injury. These clips show her chasing down the ball and/or offensive player with the ball, successfully taking possession and changing direction.
VIDEO LINK: Successful Defensive Soccer Moves
This next video, which is still painful for us to watch, shows the same sort of run up the sideline, but this time Willow was NOT successful. She turns on her right foot, but her left gets caught up on the leg of the player she’s marking, and she goes down. According to her surgeon, Dr. Todd Tucker of the Tucson Orthopaedic Institute, Willow didn’t just tear the ACL on her right knee, “she shredded it.”
Day 1: April 2, 2011
Arizona State Cup, Game 1
TVSC 95 Samba vs. 95 Valparaiso
Golf Links Field D, Tucson, AZ
VIDEO LINK: 16 Year-old Soccer player ACL Injury (slo-mo)
Many of us suspected and even knew we had just witnessed an ACL injury. Team dads, LaMonte Hunley and Tony Guerrero (whose own daughter suffered an ACL tear some three years ago), carried Willow off the field and brought her to the arms of team mom/athlete, Shannah Biggan, and another teammate, the lovely Olivia Ortiz—also recovering from ACL surgery. I ran to get ice and tried to breathe rather than hyperventilate. I also called my husband, Mike, who was in Prescott with Camille and her soccer team, and broke the bad news.
When I returned to the sideline, Willow was as upset about the pain in her knee as she was about not being on the field, and letting down her Samba teammates. But there was no way Willow was going back in that game.
Samba lost 0-1.