North Texas Daily

Soccer players recover from ACL injuries

Soccer players recover from ACL injuries

Soccer players recover from ACL injuries
September 02
00:25 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

Jackie Kerestine began her 2013 season with high hopes. She was the 2012 Sun Belt Tournament most outstanding player, broke the school record with 16 wins the year before and was going to help lead the Mean Green in its first season in Conference USA.

Then, just four games into the season, Kerestine tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee.

“There was a lot of crying,” Kerestine said.

Many athletes are tough when it comes to tolerating pain,  but Kerestine said recovery from a torn ACL was not an easy process.

But fortunately for Kerestine, she was not alone throughout her rehabilitation. About a month after Kerestine’s season-ending injury on Sept. 1, 2013, sophomore defender Allie Harper suffered the same injury as the Mean Green keeper, tearing her ACL in a home game against the University of Charlotte on Oct. 13.

Although Harper’s injury was an additional blow to the team, Kerestine said having a teammate going through the same process was comforting.

“We would always ask each other when our knees were hurting,” Kerestine said. “‘Is your knee hurting in this spot? Yes! Oh my gosh, is yours?  Yes!’ So it kind of made us feel like we were both normal, since it was happening to both of us.”

Even though they both had each other to lean on throughout the process, ACL rehabilitation still wasn’t easy.  According to assistant athletic trainer Andrea Miller, who currently serves as the soccer team’s primary trainer, the road to recovery is grueling from day one and tests an athlete’s resilience.

“We officially start even before they go into surgery to make sure we keep up their quad strength, because the stronger we keep them before surgery, the easier it’s going to be afterwards,” Miller said. “And after that, once they’ve had their surgery, the main focus is really getting that quad back, because they’re put on crutches for 4 weeks. So they’re not allowed to do much range of motion with their knees, so it’s really focused on trying to keep that muscular strength as much as we possibly can. “

Miller also said there is a lot of pain when it comes to rehabilitating an ACL.

“They have to allow me to put them in quite a bit of discomfort and pain, especially at the beginning,” Miller said. “Most of them tend not to like us very much at the very beginning because of all of the pain.”

Both Kerestine and Harper have made a full recovery and are part of a defense that has yet to allow a goal this season.  However, Harper can attest to how taxing and long rehabilitation was.

“There were a lot of bad days,” Harper said.

Miller said a typical athlete takes nine to 12 months before they can resume all athletic activities again. That is nearly a full calendar year of being pushed beyond the pain threshold daily, exercising muscles that have lost significant mobility and teaching your knee how to support the weight of your body again.

But for Kerestine, that timeframe was simply a number.  The Mean Green keeper was medically cleared for all athletic activity in only eight and a half months, beating the medically-determined odds. And, although Miller has only worked with Kerestine and Harper since the start of the 2014 season, both players emphasized how essential a strong relationship with a trainer is throughout the recovery process.

“It’s really important,” Harper said. “You have to be in good communication with them.  If you don’t like them, it’s not going to go well.”

Harper said outside of the countless hours spent in the training room before and after practice, a lot of time goes into rehabilitating the injury on your own, which further emphasizes the importance of a strong line of communication. But even exceeding good communication, Kerestine said it is important to develop a personal relationship between an athlete and their trainer as well.

“Because everybody’s different, they’ll know if it’s really hurting you, or if it’s just you being a baby about it,” Kerestine said.  “They know who you are, they know how to push you, and they know how to keep you motivated.”

In her first three games since returning from injury, Kerestine has allowed zero goals with eight saves. But Kerestine said that she’s just happy to be back.

“I just finally have my confidence back. I feel like I’m back in my groove,” Kerestine said. “I’m aggressive, I know what to do, and I just feel happy. I don’t have to concentrate and just beat myself down. I’m able to enjoy it.”

Featured Image: The anterior cruciate ligament tearing. Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Staff Illustrator

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