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Photo by Grace Goldman
Junior Sofia Stechschulte knows that she has to play through her pain. She can’t let her teammates down. During the first quarter, she feels fine. Second quarter, she feels worse but still tolerable. The buzzer for the third quarter sounds, and Stechschulte keeps going. She is playing a dangerous game. Girls who are over six feet tall and three times her weight are pushing and shoving her. Finally, falling onto the wooden court, Stechschulte grabs her hip in pain.
By mid-June, Stechschulte had been experiencing pain in her hip for a few weeks. Her hip hurt when she ran, and it felt like it was getting caught on the bone when she walked. Her dad, an orthopedic surgeon, had seen this injury before and said that it was safe for her to continue to play as long as the pain remained tolerable. Stechschulte was playing in an Amature Athletic Union (AAU) basketball game in Dallas. After she fell, it was discovered that Stechschulte had torn her labrum, the lining of the hip’s socket.
“It just got to a point after that game, where I was just like, ‘Dad, I can’t run. I can’t play.’” Stechschulte said. “And you could tell that there was an immediate difference in the game after I tore it.”
Stechschulte took the rest of her summer basketball season off and rested her hip, hoping that it would recover. But after six weeks of rest, Stechschulte still couldn’t run or walk without pain shooting up her leg. During this time, it was also discovered the she had an irregular bone growth.
“At that point, it just became so painful that we had to make a decision of either pushing through the pain and risking tearing it more and being in so much pain that I physically couldn’t play,” Stechschulte said. “Or getting it fixed right away and hoping for a good recovery so that I could play sports again.”
She and her family made the mutual decision for her to have the surgery in hopes that she could return to sports quickly.
Her dad, Dan, chose Dr. James Voos, the head physician for the Cleveland Browns, for the surgery. He specializes in labrum repairs and was also a past colleague of Dan’s.
Sofia and her dad traveled to Cleveland for the surgery during the first week of school.
Her hip was repaired, so technically the surgery was successful, however, Stechschulte is not allowed to play any sport for the next six months, so she’ll miss the basketball and tennis seasons. In addition to missing sports, she also had to use a wheelchair at school, wear a hip brace and use crutches for several weeks. This helped to keep her hip in place while healing.
“It’s so frustrating for me, because I am such an active and independent person. I like doing things on my own,” Stechschulte said. “And it’s really difficult for me to do anything; I can’t get myself food, and I have to go up and down stairs with help.”
After several weeks in a wheelchair, Stechschulte is now off crutches and out of a hip brace, but she still faces challenges everyday.
“It’s hard for me to see the tennis and basketball girls. My sister and cousin play tennis for East, and they talk about it a lot. That’s hard for me to hear, especially because I wish I could play,” Stechschulte said. “And basketball recruiters have emailed me, asking what tournaments I will be playing in this season. And I have to, sadly, tell them no, and that I will be out for awhile.”
While her parents, Satu and Dan, have been upset to see their daughter go through this, they are proud at how well she has handled it.
“Sofia has been unbelievably resilient through the whole surgery and recovery,” Satu said. “She doesn’t complain and goes through her days as if nothing has happened.”
Although she is guaranteed to miss all of tennis season, Stechschulte and her teammates are hoping to have her back by the end of basketball season.
“We are going to have a big loss with her out with the injury. She’s a great player with a lot of varsity experience,” senior and varsity teammate Josie Clough said. “She’s one of our main post players and our team will struggle without her height.”
After starting as a sophomore last year, Stechschulte was looking forward to this season and what the team was going to accomplish.
Although she will not be on the court, head basketball coach Lauren Lawrence will still treat Stechschulte as a member of the team.
“Stechschulte is a very team oriented girl and a big part of our team here at East,” Lawrence said. “She will suit up for the games and sit on the bench with the team. We are all hoping that she has a quick and speedy recovery.”
Until then, Stechschulte has had to make a few lifestyle changes.
According to Stechschulte, her appetite has changed and now she is less hungry. She also has been trying to limit her junk food.
“So far, I don’t feel out of shape, but I know that I will be by February when I am allowed to play again,” Stechschulte said.
In three months, Sofia will be allowed to start running again.
“I really hope to get back into as good of, if not better shape, as I was over the summer, but know that there is a long road ahead,” Stechschulte said. “I don’t really know what the future holds, I’m just hoping for a fast recovery.”