Scalora | There and back again: the tale of a torn ACL
February 13, 2013, 9:06 pm·
Ceaphas Stubbs | DP
Athletes face a multitude of potential setbacks in their sport of choice that, in an instant, change everything. You could miss an open shot. You could fumble a perfect pass. They’re minor, though, and although they may seem overwhelmingly upsetting at the time, you will eventually get over it. You have to. Quickly.
But what happens when a setback literally “sets you back?”
My ACL injury setback was not a 24-hour, week-long or even month-long thing. It was a long, grueling eight months of pure hell.
On Sept. 18, 2011, playing a soccer game at George Mason, the tension was escalating. Girls were body-checking each other, bickering back and forth and the referee had no control. I specifically remember telling the referee, “You need to get a hold of this game or something bad is going to happen.” Hey — let’s shoot the messenger, right?
Fifteen minutes into the second half, I beat the opposing defender marking me. Cutting into the center of the field and preparing to take a shot with my right foot, I felt the girl that I had just skinned creeping up behind me.
Then it happened. She clipped my left leg from underneath me and up I went into the air, feeling a “pop.” It did not hurt like one would think, but it was rather the fear of what just happened that crippled me. As a female athlete, you hear stories about the infamous “pop” of an ACL tear and literally cringe at the thought of it happening to you.
Those horror stories had just become my reality.
That day, I lost the game that is my passion. I lost my lifestyle. And the unfamiliarity I was about to face was overwhelming. I had no idea the caliber of the adversity that was ahead of me: depression, pain, anxieties, heartbreak, happiness, doubts and failure.
Surgery was frightening and excruciating. As days passed, I realized I could no longer lift my left leg. What a helpless feeling. I had to have someone help pick my leg up, very gently, so I could rest on my bed. I was in complete agony 24/7 and was unable to sleep through the night peacefully for a long time. I had to wear a sturdy knee brace to keep my leg straight and stay on crutches for a month.
Looking at myself in the mirror about two weeks after surgery, I realized my left leg was next to nothing. The left muscular quad that I had developed from my years of playing soccer had deteriorated. I was completely disproportionate.
The rehabilitation that I had to face was more than taxing. Before scar tissue could build up in my knee, my physical therapist needed to bend it. I would lie on my stomach, three times a week, and he would force my knee back. Shrieking, with tears flowing from the pain, I would beg him to stop. But he couldn’t.
I could not run for four months, and I could barely walk for the first two. On top of all this pain, I had a looming thought in the back of my head that would never go away. Would I ever be able to play soccer again?
I knew that my competitors were happy that I tore my ACL. They wanted me to fail. Technically, I felt like a failure — but I had to get over this “setback.” This is where I began my mission.
People doubted that I would make a comeback. Those “haters” ignited the fire that pushed me in my recovery, month after month. Those people are the ones I did three-a-days for, making sure that when I came back, Kerry Scalora was really back.
Soccer is my life. Every day when I wake up, I think about what I need to do to improve as a soccer player. For a while, a huge part of me was missing.
But I’m back. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t do it on my own. Along with multiple top-tier physical therapists, an excellent surgeon and the help of my family members and best friends, here I am.
I come back with full vengeance and see no sign of stopping anytime soon.
I am a full believer that everything happens for a reason. So, as frustrating as this is, I had to think about why I was “chosen” to tear my ACL. My conclusions about my setback of eight months are ultimately what made me become a “champion,” defeating my injury.
I needed to take a step back from the game. I was tired mentally and physically, and as a soccer player, I was not the person who I wanted to be. I needed to grow as a person and be thrown off the “top of the pyramid” and see how life was on the other side.
And on this other side is where I grew. I strengthened relationships with my teammates, went to them for advice and for comfort and took a good look in the mirror and positively changed as a person. Because I needed to.
Now, when I am out on the field, I don’t just play for myself. I play for my passion of the game. I play because I know what it is like to lose something you love. I play for my best friends who are my teammates. I play because soccer is my life.
So knowing why I play when I step out on the pitch, nothing is going to stop me from beating you. And nothing will stop Penn women’s soccer.