The girls basketball team is down by 15 in the fourth quarter facing Shawnee Mission West. Frustrated, but determined to win and to get all of the girls to play like a team, sophomore Kyle Haverty plays more aggressively than usual with one thing running through her mind.
Win. Win. Win.
She jumps up to deflect a pass from Shawnee Mission West and lands on her left leg. Haverty tears her ACL.
She dives to catch the ball landing and twists her left knee. Senior Sam Schneider tears her ACL.
She changes directions while playing soccer in eighth grade and her left cleat gets caught in the turf. Senior Sarah Rankin tears her ACL.
Haverty, Schneider and Rankin all made one wrong move that cost them months of training and playing time. Determined to win, they all pushed their bodies too far in order to get what they wanted.
Although for the most part preventable, injuries like anterior cruciate ligament, better known as ACL, tears require months of rehabilitation. They can come as a devastation to players and their families, as well as their teams and coaches.
The ACL is the tendon that holds the femur and tibia together, and prevents the knee from hyper extending. It’s location in the middle of the knee combined with the lack of blood supply makes it susceptible to tearing.
Tears are caused by sudden movement in the knee when changing direction or stopping movement suddenly. It can also be caused by landing incorrectly and physical collision.
Rankin thought that she was fine when she tore her ACL, and even jogged off the field. But when trying to show to her coach that she was fine by running back and forth, Rankin completely tore her ACL.
Teenagers’ bones typically grow first, and then muscles grow afterwards. Unfortunately, with the mix of that and lack of knowledge on how to compete properly, teenage athletes are injured at about the same rate as professional athletes.
“Young athletes, generally speaking, are not taught how to move properly” Robert Comacho from breakingmuscle.com said. “They are taught gameplay mechanics, strategies and sport specific skills. But no one takes the time to teach them basic things like squatting, running and landing mechanics.”
All three girls had to get ACL reconstruction surgery. The reconstruction surgery that both Schneider and Haverty underwent called for grafting the patellar tendon in their knees in order to rebuild the new ACL. Rankin’s surgery was different, however, and consisted of transplanting, or grafting, tendons from the hamstring. Then those tendons are used to reconstruct the ACL.
“The surgery went well. They have to take a tendon from inside your knee and they use that to build your new ACL so they have to drill through bones,” Schneider said. “It was painful for a couple weeks.”
Rehab usually takes about six to seven months and mostly consists of rebuilding muscle and retraining the body how to run and jump correctly.
“Rehab consisted of lots of lunges and just making sure I had all the right movements down,” Rankin said.
Especially for girls, who are more quadricep dominant, rehab is composed of of building muscle in the quad and keeping that proportional to their hamstring.
“Training again was a little scary at first because I was a little tentative to do anything,” Schneider said.
It was hard watching her teammates practice and succeed during games and that mixed with the frustration of rehab was especially hard for Haverty.
“At first you feel really defeated and like there’s no hope,” Haverty said, “but you just have to keep working out all the time and keep building muscle.”
Haverty, Schneider and Rankin all three went through months of physical therapy and overcame the terrors of training again. But their hope is not lost and they all still play keeping in mind what they need to do to prevent further ACL injuries, while doing their best to work hard to get better.