Senior Addie Griffith looks around the familiar gray room, staring at herself through the glass doors with tears running down her face. She lets her head drop into her arms, trying to cope with the misery. Her doctor has just broken the news that her knee injury will put her out for the rest of the season, bringing an end to her competitive soccer career.
On April 20 at Shawnee Mission South, Addie experienced a serious injury. During the second half of the game, she and an opponent slid into a tackle for the ball; her knee went one way and her body the other. She tried running through the pain but kept feeling a click in her knee and knew that the injury was more intense than just a muscle pull.
“I screamed to my coach that I needed a sub,” Addie said. “I kept telling myself and my teammates that it was nothing, but when I got home I burst into tears because of the pain and the fear of what had really happened.”
The next morning Addie went to see Dr. Randall Goldstein at the KU Medical Center and discovered that she had severely sprained her medial collateral ligament (MCL). The MCL is a band of tissue on the inside of the knee that connects the thighbone to the bone of the lower leg and keeps the knee from bending inward.
“Spraining my MCL meant that the game I loved so much was officially over,” Addie said. “This wasn’t how I wanted to end my soccer career. It just makes me super sad because I’ve been hurt so much and it’s unfair for it to end like this. I loved working hard and being a part of a team and not having that is just so hard.”
Addie started playing soccer at the age of four and is familiar with the emotional pain that accompanies physical injuries. In a JV game at Shawnee Mission South her freshman year, the same place where her most recent trauma occurred, she suffered a severe concussion that resulted in her being hospitalized for three days. The impact also dislocated her nose and essentially broke the left side of her face, including her eye orb and cheek bone.
Addie had to spend a year and a half working toward recovery. She had to go on full brain rest, sitting in darkness doing nothing, for the first couple of weeks in order to heal from her concussion. In addition, she went to physical therapy three times a week for a whole summer.
“At points it was very difficult,” Addie said. “I felt sick almost every day and I missed a huge part of my sophomore year recovering. I continually asked myself if soccer, something I had done my whole life, was worth continuing. I decided I wasn’t going to let this injury take power over me, so I kept fighting.”
Addie remembers her sophomore year when she tried playing for her club team in the fall after her first injury. Her body wasn’t healthy enough to handle all the physical activity required. At random times it would give out on her, and she would collapse on the field.
After not being able to play soccer that year, Addie planned to come back her junior year better than ever. Her mom, Cindy Griffith, was not excited about her choosing to go back to soccer, but Addie was insistent that she needed to at least try. Addie made the varsity team, and her mom cried the first time she stepped onto the field.
“To see her back in her uniform on a field with all of her teammates again made me unbelievably proud, scared and nervous all at the same time,” Cindy said. “As she jogged out with a huge smile on her face, her entire team on the bench and all of the parents on the sidelines began clapping and cheering.”
With the support of the tight-knit East soccer community, Addie has found it easier to cope with her current injury. Many of her teammates, like senior Chloe Harrington, gave her candy and cards after she sprained her MCL.
“Addie is being really positive about the whole thing,” Harrington said. “I really admire how she is not letting the injury affect her attitude and how she is still being such an amazing and supportive teammate. She still goes to games and cheers for everyone on the field and really helps to keep everyone working hard.”
Even though Addie wasn’t a starter, the team has had to move people around and have others play in positions they don’t normally play in. Some JV players, such as junior Bria Foley and freshman Lauren Sandow, have been moved up to take over Addie’s defensive position. She gave them the advice to just relax and stay with their marks because she knows it can be difficult to play an unfamiliar position. She also wants to stay involved with the team because she has no plans to return.
Addie’s schedule for recovery is four to six weeks spent in a brace then an additional four to six weeks in physical therapy, but the timetable can change, depending on her progress. Once she gets her full strength back, she wants to focus on running as her new pastime to stay in shape.
“I learned that when you get knocked down you have to get back up no matter how difficult it is going to be,” Addie said. “Soccer used to be my identity, but when I got hurt I realized that my identity is in myself, not the sport.”