"Be good to your body."
This is the advice I received as a 17-year-old kid just entering my career as a college basketball player. “You’re going to want to be able to run around with your kids one day.”
Psh, yeah yeah okay.
When you’re a 17-year-old kid, adults don’t know anything. I’ll be just fine. This of course, is when I had already successfully come back strong from TWO ACL surgeries before even starting college basketball. And let’s not forget, I played my whole senior year with a torn meniscus and partially torn ACL pushing the surgery off until after the season because I was stubborn and wanted to be a McDonald’s All American.
Well, I became a McDonald’s All American, but the constant pain and casual knee dislocation didn’t make it the easiest route to get there. But hey, I got the accolades and the cool gear I really wanted, and when you're 17 that's all that matters right?
Probably not my smartest, most body conscious decision looking back.
When I arrived at Duke my freshman year, due to some complications from my previous surgery, I had what I thought was going to be my last and final surgery, an “easy clean up”. Sounds simple...no biggie I thought.
Surgery count - Three.
(I have to clarify the count because you could easily lose track following this.)
When I got to college, I was on a mission. I was going to be the hardest worker in the gym. That’s how I got to Duke in the first place anyways. My dad wasn’t an NBA player, and my mom wasn’t an Olympic athlete (no offense mom and dad). My dad is a farmer (a great one that is!) who’s never touched a basketball in his life and my mom lives and dies by the granny shot. To be honest, she has the form PERFECTED... but needless to say, the basketball genes don't run in my family.
Once rehabbing strong from my 3rd knee surgery, I was more than ready to start my college career. After essentially two and a half years of being out, my first season finally back healthy I played more minutes than any Duke freshman ever and pushed my body to its limits. I was just happy to be healthy so when my coach said run 30 sprints in the conditioning test, I ran 40. When our mile time goal was 6:20, I ran 5:20 AND spent the whole summer running extra sprints to train for it. When there was a loose ball, I dove in the stands for it.
The closest thing I can compare it to is Doug the dog from the movie "Up". He'd be doing one thing, then suddenly... SQUIRREL and he was after it. If you've seen "Up", you know what I'm talking about. Basically that was me on the court... LOOSE BALL and I was gone! I couldn't help it, that's just how I was wired.
Every day after a game, I’d wake up looking like a bruised banana. I’m not kidding, I once had a bruise that looked like the outline of the United States of America... and I was so proud.
That one developed of course, after I dove head first into a scores table for a loose ball against Notre Dame. I walked away with a black eye and a few scars (literally), one being on my lower back because I eventually needed a surgery to repair a herniated disc.
Surgery count – Four.
After recovering from that one, it was pretty much smooth sailing up until my redshirt-senior year. But even after four surgeries, I still wasn’t “being good” to my body. I was still doing extra workouts on what were suppose to be "rest days" and I wasn't one to let any minor injuries or soreness stop me from pushing through practice or having fun off the court either. Extra work certainly isn't a bad thing, it's essential - but REST was not in my vocabulary.
Hence, when my redshirt senior year came around, I gained the nick name “Granny”.
After a summer of hard training, I started to feel a dull pain in my knee, which turned out to be a chondral defect, a wear and tear, overuse injury. I made the decision to push off the surgery to repair it until after the season. Sound familiar? My senior year of high school all over again. Did I mention I’m stubborn?
First, I had an arthroscopic scope mid-season.
Surgery count – Five.
Then I eventually had the major surgery right after the season.
Surgery count – Six.
If you want the long story of how the first nine months of rehab went check out my other
blog ---> Here
To save you time, I’ll give you the quick run-down of how the last several went… BAD.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. And unfortunately, that’s what my rehab process had turned into – pure insanity.
After countless hours of physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, consultations, MRI’s, and failed expectations month after month, I had to finally accept the facts...the surgery didn't work as expected.
I'm leaving out a lot of lengthy medical terminology, but long story short - due to circumstances out of my control, the procedure just didn't work. Frustrating, to say the least.
So, what’s my alternative? ANOTHER SURGERY.
Surgery Count – Seven.
It’s hard to wrap my mind around really. Another one...really God? I’ve truly already been through and seen it all. I have crutches, leg braces, compression wraps and ice machines overflowing my storage closets at home. I've had to rock crutches through hot summers, dripping sweat on my way to class, cold winters and even at major events like Prom and Formals.
I know the Duke hospital and clinics like the palm of my hand. It’s all routine now. I even have my Health Insurance Member ID # memorized! My poor health insurance company…
It’s actually kind of funny though. While some people may be regulars at a bar or restaurant, I’m pretty much a regular at my doctor’s appointments.
“Oh hey again Becca – right knee, 2/27/95, got you!... one MRI coming right up!”
And I swear I can accurately read MRI’s now. Need a second opinion? No need for a radiologist, I’m your girl.
If you haven’t noticed, I like to keep things light. It’s always good to have perspective.
Another surgery is certainly not good news, but there are way worse things. There’s always a silver lining in every situation and while I don’t know this one just yet, it’ll reveal itself eventually.
Right now, I'm just genuinely happy to have had a very successful surgery and to be back on track to being pain-free and healthy again. I'm just focused on taking it one day at a time and most importantly staying positive along the way.
Because If there's anything I've learned from having seven surgeries, it's that it's how you respond to adversity that matters most.
But my advice to any stubborn athlete like myself is simple: BE GOOD TO YOUR BODY.
It’s easy to get caught up in the NOW as a young athlete. You put in all the time, all the work, and in the moment, ball really is life.
I’m not saying don’t give it your all, but just be smart. Taking a rest day, or two won’t kill you. Ice bath, normatech, STRETCH! Mobility it a blessing. Most importantly, LISTEN to your body. If it hurts, do something about it. Don’t just push through the pain to prove something, it’ll catch up to you I promise.
Oh and maybe think twice before diving head first into a scores table...?
Unfortunately, injuries are just part of the game. Some people are lucky and can be healthy their entire careers, and others just can’t. Everyone is different and while injuries can often seem like the end of the world, in the grand scheme of things, they really aren’t. They build character, toughness, resiliency and most importantly appreciation.
You never know when the game can be taken from you, but luckily there’s so much more out there than just your sport. For most college athletes, that reality doesn't sink in until after graduation... but my advice is to think about it now. Yes - enjoy the moment, be locked in, be present, but also think about the future and who you are at the core, outside your sport, because that's what really matters!
And of course - BE GOOD TO YOUR BODY.
(Because if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to whoop your kids in 1 on 1 someday... or at least perfect the Granny Shot.)