ACL injuries test the love for the game

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The training tables in the Ritchie Center where athletes complete their rehab and ACL treatments.

It is common for student athletes to end up with ACL tears during their collegiate careers.

Why do they continue to play? How do they continue to endure the pain? Are student athletes continuing to play in fear of losing the sport they love?

“I continue to play after all of these surgeries to prove that it’s possible.” Junior volleyball player Taylor Loyd says when asked after undergoing 2 ACL reconstructive surgeries and a port-hole filling ACL surgery.

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Photo of Taylor Loyd. Courtesy of DU athletics.

Taylor is a member of the University of Denver volleyball team. She continues to work and grow as a player every day although she struggles. Taylor can no longer jump and will probably have chronic knee problems forever but continues to play the sport she is most passionate about.

“Some people cannot mentally handle the work that has to be put in for ACL rehab. You essentially have to learn to walk, run, sit, stand all over again. It’s a test of mental strength, passion for the game, and faith in yourself.”

ACL surgeries are common in athletes all over the nation. The ACL is located in the middle of the knee and can be a detrimental injury for athletes. ACL surgeries can take at least six months to heal. Considering the year round training required of collegiate athletes, six months is a long time to miss crucial training.

Courtney Domme, a sophomore at the University of Denver, has had three ACL, meniscus, and MCL surgeries on the same knee throughout her athletic career. That is a total of nine different surgeries. Courtney, a talented volleyball player, had committed to the top ranked University of Washington’s volleyball team. After her third ACL surgery, she had to make the hardest decision of her life; to give up the sport she loved and her division one scholarship.“Th adjustment from being an athlete to a N.A.R.P has been extremely difficult. Ever since I could remember I have been recognized as an athlete and having that title stripped from me involuntarily felt like I lost who I was. I felt like I had lost my identity.”

Courtney had a difficult time adjusting to non-athlete student life but is thankful for what it has taught her. “Although tearing my ACL a couple of times has been defeating, it has taught me how grateful I am for my family and friends who have supported me though these past 5 years of recovery.”

The medical staff of the University of Denver athletic program is comprised of highly qualified medical professionals and state-of-the-art facilities. Joy Anderson, a registered physical therapist for the University of Denver, stated that, “being forced to stop playing sports because of ACL surgeries is one of the hardest adjustments for student athletes to endeavor. For their whole life, these student athletes have worked to get where they are today, and once it’s gone it’s a bittersweet goodbye. There is constant pressure weighing on them physically and mentally.”

Joy speaks for athletes who go through ACL injuries and says that the main reasons for these athletes to persevere and continue to play is because of the fear of transitioning, losing team culture, and for their pure passion for the game.

I was also able to talk with Eric Kronenberg, a red shirt junior at the University of Denver. Eric has had 2 ACL surgeries. He tore his ACL for the second time four days after his first surgery. Eric is a Colorado Rapids professional soccer prospect and will be training with them this summer. Eric had a difficult time recovering from his ACL surgeries because during his recovery the University of Denver men’s soccer team had set a new NCAA record by having two undefeated seasons and making a national championship appearance. “It made me feel like I was missing out on the best a division one soccer program will ever be.”

Eric continued to rehab and get healthy so he could return to the sport he loves to play. “I have thought of being a normal college student many times, mostly at the end of quarters when I’m tired of waking up early to do tedious rehab. It (ACL surgeries) have really tested how much I love my sport and I can easily say that if I did not love soccer and have such a strong passion then yes, I would have lost sports and just moved on to non-athlete life.”

The severity of ACL injuries differ, but it is a difficult injury to overcome. ACL injuries are difficult to endure especially when it happens more than one time.  Every athlete I have spoken to has had the will power and strength to push through their injuries because of pure sportsmanship and dedication for the sport they play.

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The hallway in underground Ritchie Center where the athlete locker rooms and training rooms are.

One Response to ACL injuries test the love for the game

  • Leah Swander
    Leah Swander says:

    Hey Kayla! I really enjoyed reading your story about ACL injuries. I have a teammate who tore her ACL for the 3rd time this last fall and is still playing because she loves soccer. I didn’t tear my ACL, but I have also gone under for a reconstruction of my entire knee. Recovering sucks but I couldn’t imagine life without sports. I guess you just learn to live through the pain. Anyways, awesome story! I loved your sources because they, for me, were very relatable!

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