Stronger Scars Giving student-athletes the platform to talk about our injuries and helping one another embrace the strength our scars give us!

"Our coaches wanted us to find something we were passionate about and something we could give back to people by doing. I am really passionate about helping people embrace the things that have happened to them in their life and their marks that show them. Any surgery mark a student athlete has is something people look at as "whats wrong with you?" I'm passionate about the idea scars aren't something bad but they are something that makes them different and allows them to tell the story behind what that scar says. I wanted to make an organization and a movement that helps people open up to tell the story their scar tells."
Stronger Scars Founder Bailey Cartwright
My name is Ellie Richards and I am a Junior on the Notre Dame Softball team. I stand behind the fact that an injury will make one stronger, both physically and mentally. My work ethic is because of the three ACL surgeries I have overcome. The first one happened when I was a 7th grader playing basketball. This was just a bump in the road. Sophomore year basketball season comes around and the third game in, I went down. This time it was my right knee that gave out. Knowing the feeling of an ACL tear, I had a feeling the MRI result would not be good, and I was right. Once again, I was ready for the challenge. My dream was to play division I softball, so while I missed my sophomore season, I did whatever I could to be back playing. I played junior and senior season, but one of my last games senior year, it happened again. Life was throwing me another curveball. I tore my ACL and meniscus again, and was having to face another surgery. I have never been more angry at myself. Why would this happen to me again, for a third time? The thought of whether to fulfill my dream and play division I softball lingered. Once again, I did not give up and I attended Notre Dame to play Softball for the Irish. It has been the best choice I have made Today, I play for my teammates - they are what keep me going. If it wasn’t for the support system I have back home and at Notre Dame, I would not be here. From the hundreds of hours spent in the training and weight room, I will forever be a hard worker. Even after shitty days and mental breakdowns that come with injuries, I would not trade this journey for anything. My scars are not ugly, but rather a reminder of everything I have been through. I have learned to appreciate the little things in life and to always look at the glass half full. This road has allowed me to understand the importance of always pushing myself and to never give up. I am forever thankful.
My name is Nicole Massimino and I am a sophomore on the Women’s Lacrosse team at Notre Dame. During my junior year of high school, I began feeling tingling and numbness in my lower legs while playing. After many doctors appointments, I was diagnosed with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome in both of my lower legs. This is when the facia around your muscle does not expand enough during exercise in relation to the increased pressure in the muscle which limits blood flow causing numbness and pain. For my junior and senior year of high school, I continued to play through this pain. However, when I began playing lacrosse in the fall of my freshman year, the pain become too much to handle, and I was forced to stop playing. I began looking for solutions; the first being surgery. With the compartment syndrome surgery only having about a 65-75% success rate, I looked into other options one of which was getting botox injected into the muscle. In October of my freshman year I got the botox injections with the hope that the botox would relax my muscle enough giving more room for muscle expansion and blood flow during exercise. Unfortunately, I developed a severe foot drop from the botox, one of the risks associated with the procedure from injecting too much into the muscle. I had drop foot for about 2-3 months until I was able to regain my regular running gate again. At this point, when trying to run, I was still experiencing the same symptoms as before, so I decided to take time off to let the muscle relax itself. The muscle however was never able to relax enough to alleviate my symptoms while running. I got my first surgery in July of 2018 and began rehabbing as soon as possible. This surgery was unsuccessful however, leaving me again to look for other solutions. I talked to doctor after doctor, and even flew to Colorado to get a full evaluation of every joint in my body searching for any other possible cause of this numbness. After performing an extensive 8 week stretching plan, I was left with no choice to have my second surgery this past March. I now walk around with 8 scars on my legs. Although many people see scars as a sign of pain, I look at my scars and see quite the opposite. My scars are a constant reminder of the amazing support system I have around me. They constantly remind me of how my family is willing to go above and beyond for me and will always be on my side no matter what. They remind me of my teammates who have constantly supported me and who always have my back. Being injured has given me a whole new perspective on sports. Being in the training room everyday, you realize that there is always someone who is fighting a harder battle than you are, so be grateful for your situation no matter what and never give up. I have also learned so much on the sidelines these past two years, but most importantly I have learned to never take a second of playing for granted because you never know which play could be your last.
My name is Amber Edemann and I am a senior at California State University Northridge. On November 3, 2013 I was a sophomore in high school, thinking I’d be participating in just another normal soccer practice. That was until I went into a tackle, heard my knee pop, and fell to the ground in tears. I had torn my Patella tendon in my right knee. It was about an 11 month gruesome recovery of constant PT and quad strengthening. I had just made it back in time to play my junior season, and finished off my high school career strong. Fast forward to my freshman year of college. I was on the field playing University of Nevada, Reno. I was running down the field and had to stop quickly to change direction. As soon as I had decelerated I had felt my right knee buckle and down I went right beyond center circle. I had torn my MPFL and my meniscus in my left knee. Another long period of recovery time of about 6-7 months before I’d be playing on the field again. Got back for my sophomore year of college ready to rock, had a great year. My junior year of college we were in Hawaii playing UH. My team was in for a corner kick as I stayed back with the UH’s forward. A ball had come out on the left side of the field toward my goal. I ran up to the ball and took a touch with my left foot when I suddenly felt a body come crashing through my right leg. All that was heard was a tree branch cracking sound, and a loud scream. After that tackle I had torn my MPFL, my meniscus, and a partial MCL. That injury led me to redshirt my senior year, but took that year as a MASSIVE growth year. Got faster, stronger, and more mentally tough than ever before. 16 months later I was cleared to step back on the field again. Today I am ready to play my super senior year and finish strong! I wouldn’t have been able to get through all this adversity if it wasn’t for my amazing coaches, teammates, friends, and athletic trainers along the way! Cheers to the 5th Years!
Hi my name is Madelyn Desiano and I am on the UCLA women’s soccer team. Last January (2018) I enrolled early at UCLA and played in several spring games. In our last spring game, I fell crossing a ball and tore my ACL, meniscus, and sprained my MCL and LCL. I had surgery May 14th and redshirted this past season. By having surgery in May, I knew I wasn't playing in the fall, which was really hard to process. It was difficult not playing or traveling with my team, however I used that time to find a new appreciation for soccer and to learn off the field. My teammates, coaches, trainers, and family made my good days great and my bad days better. I spent the next 10 months rehabbing diligently, lifting consistently, getting fit, changing my diet, and building my confidence. Unfortunately, on April 3rd (2 weeks after being cleared) I cut hard in practice and re tore my ACL & MCL. I don’t know why these things happen, and I feel unbelievably defeated. I am hoping to have surgery in a few weeks after my MCL heals and will most likely sit out again next season. After looking back at my numerous assessments with my trainers, I was 100% strong enough and ready to play, so my surgeon is calling this a freak accident with really bad luck. I have no regrets in my first recovery which gives me peace of mind and I have an amazing support system that will be with me every step of the way. My injuries teach me self discipline, patience, and resilience, which all define me more than anything else I’ve been through. One day I will be back doing what I love.
My name is Taylor Pooley and I am a senior defender on Ball State University’s Women’s Soccer Team. On November 4, 2019 we made it to the MAC Championship. For the smaller conferences, win to get an automatic bid to the NCAA or lose and the season is over. With seven minutes left in what would shape up to be my last ever collegiate game, I went in for a tackle. I got the ball, the opposition player got me. Our AT came on the field to do an initial eval where I received a preliminary diagnosis of an ACL tear. I had teammates tear ACLs during my career and I knew that they were able to walk off the field. I told my AT that I wanted to leave the field on my own terms. When I went to take a step, I crumbled and ultimately had to be carried off. The next day I went in for an X-ray and my inability to weight bear was now explained. In actuality, I did not tear anything, rather I had a tibia plateau fracture. However, mine was bad enough that it would not heal on its own and surgery was set for November 12, 2019. Surgery had always been a major fear of mine, so the anticipation leading up to the surgery itself was already scary for me. Surgery went well, and I came out with eight screws, a plate, and a repair to my cartilage surface. This injury was the toughest thing I ever had to deal with mentally and the most painful thing I ever experienced physically. For all the athletes out there who have graduated, you know the painful transition into a life post athletics. I deeply identified as an athlete and prior to the injury, I knew it was going to be tough psychologically to step away from the game. I went from knowing for the first time I was going to be able to work out on my own terms, go out with my friends, and live a normal college student life to not being able to walk or drive for two months and working on rehab. I went from the idea of total freedom to total dependency on others. I had been injured before, but this time was different. Soccer was over, I did not have that driving force to rehab as fast as possible to get back on the field. I had to find my why. On November 4, 2019 I thought I was walking away from the game, but the game wasn’t done with me yet, it had something else to teach me and test me with. This injury was my greatest trial mentally and physically, but it taught me so much. The love and support I received from my family and friends kept me going day in and day out. To all the people who impacted my recovery journey and helped me feel the lows and celebrate the highs, I am eternally grateful. I feel like nothing can phase me anymore, that I can take on anything put in my path. My greatest trial became my biggest blessing.
My name is Olivia Wingate and I am a Freshman on the Notre Dame Women's Soccer Team. In May of 2017 during a soccer game I collided with the goalkeeper knee on knee. I couldn't bend or straighten my knee fully, and I knew I had done something serious. I was helped off the field and tested on the sideline for acl and mcl, which stood up fine. I had my MRI a week later, and results said that I had a severe patella bone bruise causing my pain but no other damage. With this information and ECNL playoffs coming up in 4 weeks, I was determined to play and started rehab up right away. I was told my knee couldn't get worse and that it was all up to how much pain tolerance I had. I was so frustrated because I was in a lot of pain and wasn't able to practice fully. I thought I was being judged for sitting out just for a bruise, and felt pressured to be playing.Three days before I was scheduled to leave for playoffs, I was home alone and bent down to pick something up off the ground. As I got all the way in a squat and came up, I felt the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life. It felt as if something was grinding on my muscles on the medial side of my knee. As I continued to walk and bend my knee, I could straighten it less and less. As I touched my knee I felt a small pea sized lump that could be moved. It was hard and I had no idea if I was just overreacting and it was fine, or if this was a problem. I got a second MRI and it turns out that a piece of the underside of my patella and the cartilage behind it had broken off and made its way to the medial of my knee, causing the grinding I felt on my quad muscles. I had surgery on June 28th 2017 and was told that it would be a 4 month recovery process. My surgery consisted of flipping my patella and inserting the piece of bone/cartilage back into it's place with a biodegradable pin. Over my journey back, my timeline kept increasing and increasing until nobody could tell me a definitive answer as to when I would be healthy again. It went from four months to six months to ten months to "we don't know". My injury was very rare and each one is different, causing a great disparity in when patients will return to play. I remember being told that I would have been better off tearing my acl because at least that has a set timeline and certain milestones the general person will meet. For me, it was always up in the air. Why was I having pain? Why was I running last week and now I can't bend my knee? I never got clear answers. Nobody knew what was going on and I got MRI after MRI after MRI. I was beyond frustrated with everyone and with my knee and I became depressed. I was constantly fighting with my parents and I isolated myself from my friends. At one point I didn't think I would ever play soccer again. My strength and conditioning coach would talk me through what was frustrating me and did everything in his power to help me get my strength and confidence back. He would switch up exercises for me if I had pain, and we would use the bike or elliptical to condition because it took stress off of my knee. Yet I still felt like nothing was working- I was doing everything I could and I still wasn't able to truly run after 9 months. With lots of help and interventions from my trainer, I changed my mindset and became solely focused on what I could control; taking care of my body and getting as strong as I could. I began to eat better foods, sleep more hours, take vitamins and minerals to help inflammation and cartilage growth, and go to a chiropractor for cupping and muscle release. I could physically see my body become the strongest it has ever been, and I was so excited. I became more optimistic and took my injury one day at a time leading up to arriving at Notre Dame for summer school. This was 14 months post-op and I was still not cleared. I began running and cutting one week before our fitness test, and two weeks before our first preseason game. I had not played soccer in 15 months, and was extremely nervous to play in my first game after just one week of practice. I ended up doing well and that really boosted my confidence. Throughout season, I was not playing how I used to play, and it frustrated me. My shot and touch was off and I wasn't as fast because my acceleration and deceleration weren't back. Overall, I think I had a very strong season for what I came from, and I surpassed my own expectations. Now a few months later, I am finally feeling like I'm myself again, and hope that next season I can show it. I wouldn't be where I am today without the emotional and physical help from my trainer, who at one point was the sole person who I felt I could talk to and confide in. I'm not sure he knows how much of an inspiration he was to me everyday. I want to thank him, along with my PT staff and chiropractor who kept me laughing through pain, and my parents who celebrated with me at my highs and challenged me during my lows. This injury truly showed me that the toughest journeys will shape you for the better.
My name is Riley Wester, and I am a sophomore on the Notre Dame softball team. On the second day of season my freshmen year, I stepped awkwardly and fell to the ground while doing a dynamic warm up before our game. It turned out I completely snapped my tendons on the outside of my left ankle and basically had no stability. You could legitimately hear my tendons snapping over the bone when I would move my ankle. I had surgery on March 29, 2018 to repair my retinaculum peroneal tendons. My recovery had a lot of setbacks. I felt like for every step forward, I took three steps backwards. Although the surgery was successful, my ankle was still hurting, so I had some more MRIs and X-rays done, saw some more doctors, and unfortunately found out I needed surgery. Again. After taking another look at my ankle, the doctor told me I could potentially be in the 10% of people who would need a groove deepening in my bone, so my tendons could have more room. I fell into that 10%. A bone chip also occurred sometime in the fall which my surgeon removed. Along with those two incisions, he also did a scope on the top of my ankle to remove any inflammation and anything else concerning. I basically had three different surgeries in one on November 20, 2018. This recovery has been the hardest and most painful thing I have ever been through. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming or crying, or both, because of the amount of physical pain I was in. I was on crutches for three months and just started walking 2 weeks ago. Already, the ability to walk on my own has improved my quality of life so much and has been an absolute game changer. Being completely dependent on people is something I’m not particularly good at. I absolutely hate asking people for help; I constantly feel like a burden. Sometimes it’s just easier to say you’re fine and doing good when in all reality you’re not. I felt like I would repeat the same day over and over again. The same routine, the same feelings, the same yearning that one day I would actually be happy and everything wouldn’t seem pointless. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t shower on my own. I couldn’t open doors for myself. I couldn’t get my own food at the dining hall. I couldn’t play the sport I’ve been playing my whole life. The mental trauma of going through something like this, not once but twice, can sometimes be too much to handle and the endless hours of rehab too consuming. Being in the dugout, not even capable of playing, has been so hard and the feeling of not being a part of the team always lingers. I’ve been through the darkest times of my life alone, so sometimes I think I don’t need help from others. The first surgery on my ankle wasn’t my first surgery, let alone my first injury. I’ve had my fair share of cortisone shots and hours of rehab for injuries that I don’t even want to list. For the past 4 years, I feel like I have spent every single day trying to recover from these countless injuries, and I know I still have a long way to go. However, the amazing people I have in my life have supported me through it all. Even when I said I didn't need help, they still did anyway. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family, friends, teammates, coaches, trainers/doctors, but most importantly my older sister Ali. She is the sole reason I’ve made it this far in life. My sister is also on the Notre Dame softball team, and on the days where I didn’t think I could get out of bed because of the amount of emotional, mental, or even physical pain I was in, she was there. She would help me get up, dress me, feed me, and take me wherever I needed to go. She was the second mom I didn’t know I desperately needed. Being injured left me completely vulnerable and taught me how to embrace that, which is extremely difficult for me. It also proved to me who truly cares about me and who wants to see me overcome any hardships in my life. My scars don’t remind me of the struggles I’ve been through. Instead they remind me of the struggles I’ve overcome and am still overcoming. They are a constant reminder of “you can do this”. The memory of when I couldn't walk on my own and felt absolutely helpless reminds me that I'm stronger now. My injuries have given me a new appreciation of my life and the way I live it. My scars are a part of my story and they’ve made me stronger. For that, I’m proud.
My name is Emina Ekić and I am a sophomore on the women’s soccer team at the University Of Louisville. My story begins in my junior year of high school when I was playing in a spring game with my club team, Javanon. I was running forward on a full sprint to put pressure on the other team when the girl I was defending cut the ball and as I followed my cleat got caught in the turf and I was moving too fast to stop myself. I’ve never torn my ACL prior to this but somehow in that moment I knew that’s exactly what happened . After the MRI results, I found out I had torn my ACL and meniscus in my right knee. I was devastated because I thought my dreams of playing college soccer were over. After 10months of rehab I was finally excited to play again and more importantly I could not wait to play at the University Of Louisville! As my college career started I had put the mental and physical hurdles of my injury behind me. The team was having a good season and my knee felt good for my first college season. In my second to last college game of my freshman career, we were playing at UNC. We were half way into the second half when I let the ball roll across my body on a turn with a defender on my back, at that moment I just heard a pop and had a sharp pain in my knee. I did it again, I didn’t need a doctor to tell me I had torn my left ACL at that moment in time. As I was carried off the field for the second time in my soccer career all the doubts and denials already started to creep in. After my MRI it was deemed I had torn my left ACL less than a year after my right one. The mental aspect of going through something like this more than once was the hardest challenge for me. You wouldn’t expect anything like this to happen to you, let alone happen twice. You start to wonder if you’ll ever be the same again, you question why this happened to you. As generic as it may seem the most important thing to do is stay positive. I am beyond grateful for the friends, family, teammates, and trainers that had gotten me through my lowest of lows not once but twice. They pushed me to keep going and never let me say “I can’t” because all that stands for is: I certainly am not trying. #gocards #strongerscars
My name is Lauren Lehman and I was, and always will be, a soccer player. My college soccer career ended far too soon after it began when I was diagnosed with what they thought was bilateral exertional compartment syndrome. After each surgery I had for compartment syndrome (and there were 3), the pain did not improve, and actually worsened, but each time, the doctors recommended more invasive surgery to try to relieve the pain. Unfortunately, after the 3rd surgery, doctors realized this was much more than just compartment syndrome as my symptoms spread throughout my whole body, and I needed to go see different kinds of specialists who could address the much more complicated symptoms I began to experience. With these new appointments came many more surgeries, 4 muscle biopsies, sympathetic nerve blocks, Botox treatments and stem cell infusions which all left their own scars on my body. It took time, but I now see my scars as strength. They are visible signs of my courage, bravery and determination to continue moving forward even if I had to give up my soccer dreams and adjust to a whole new life of illness...for now. In spite of all this, I have managed to find a new career as a special education teacher and I help others, who like me, had something happen to them that they didn’t ask for, but still together, we can find a way to have a life worth living. I wish I could say I was healthy again, but even though that isn’t the case yet, if you take one thing from my story, know that you can still find a life worth living and can excel in spite of obstacles and adversity. I first learned these lessons on a soccer field and these qualities have carried me and helped sustain me during the most intense and difficult times of my life through illness. Invest in yourself- get the help you need, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and of course physically. Through hard work, these efforts will help you begin to see all that you still can do rather than what you can’t. My story isn’t over yet and neither is yours.

Hi my name is Abby Wright. I am a senior on the Women’s Basketball team at Eastern Kentucky University. My injury stems all the way back to when I was a senior in high school. The game when it all began was my senior night against Smyrna when I all of the sudden planted wrong and had an excruciating pain shoot up my right leg. Just like that the worst of the worst came to my mind. I was carried off the court and was not able to walk for a couple of days until I was able to see a doctor. My doctor then ordered the usual tests (MRI’s and X-rays) and I was told I had a big tear in my calf muscle, but the also noticed a couple minor cysts on my ACL. I wanted to continue playing so I got a steroid injection, decided to have a minor clean up surgery after season, and played the next night.

Little did I know that a week after our state championship run, I would undergo a surgery that was more than just a clean up. On March 17th, 2015, Dr. Elrod went out to my mom in the lobby of the hospital and told her that I had 4-5 big and little cysts on my ACL that he had to take off and then do a PRP injection (blood taken from my arm and injected into the ACL to help it grow back), I had small tears on my MCL, my joint cartilage was worn down and he did a micro fracture treatment, I had a floating bone fragment behind my patella that he had to remove and didn’t know where it came from, and the cartilage above my kneecap was hanging down and catching so he had to trim it. What was supposed to be a 2-week recovery slipped through the cracks once he opened up my knee. The amount of pain I was in following the procedure led to 4 shots of morphine, which still didn’t work so we went with a nerve block so I couldn’t feel my leg at all.

The recovery process was long and hard because I was not expecting to do therapy 4 days a week on what was supposed to be only 2 days a week. I was supposed to report to summer school for college basketball in 3 months and I couldn’t believe I wasn’t ready come May. After 6 months of physical therapy and treatments, I was finally released to run. Another month later, it led me to getting back on the court and playing. Even though the physical recovery process was tough and there were days I didn’t want to go, the mental process was a lot harder. How was I to compete with the other girls with more experience and that had been doing the regular workouts, while I watched. While on the sidelines though I was able to see basketball from another perspective. I was able to be more appreciative of what God has given me and I was a support system for a lot of girls on my team. From that freshman year struggle, I have been able to use what I learned from those moments and apply them to my next three years. Senior me looks back and thanks that struggling athlete for staying strong and taking the challenge and fighting it.

Three years later I am finally a senior and I still have struggles with my injury. I am no longer able to squat in the weight room, go past 90 degrees, and can’t do any of the track workouts or extra sprints in practice. I have gotten 3 steroid/lubricant injects and wear a knee brace since freshman year. I’m not as self conscious as I used to be about my injury or my scars. The three lines on my knee are faint, but still visible if they’re searched for. For a while I viewed them as my weakness, the spots I could never run from or get rid of. Even if the scars fade, for athletes there is always a mental scar that will never let you forget them.

I found support through my family and teammates that were continuously there for me through every high and low. I talked to my parent’s everyday and they were an outlet for me to just cry and let everything out. My teammates/friends always had my back at every workout. If they saw me in pain they would help me off the court or make me get off even if I fought to stay on the court. If I was ever struggling, they were there cheering me on every step of the way. Without them I don’t think I could have ever gotten over my physical and mental scars.

My name is Nicholas Padgett, and for two years I was a center-back on the Missouri State Men’s soccer team. I was never a starter, and I barely got any minutes of the 50 some odd games that I was on the team for. One might say that I was an average player who got the opportunity to attend a Division 1 soccer program. I was told I was a late bloomer and was expected to be a superstar by the start of my Junior year; and upon hearing this, I spent my summers doing fitness and working on the ball, hoping to be able to compete when the season came around. I was always focusing on bettering myself and challenging the players who got the nod over me, aspiring to be a part of this nationally recognized defense, whether it be in the next game or in 2 seasons. I was never able to achieve this goal. I went in to college with 2 concussions under my belt. I figured that these were just freak accidents and this never really affected my play. As a 6’5” center-back, it was my job to be fearless in the air and to be willing to do anything to keep the opposing team from reaching the back of the net. Over my next 2 years at Missouri State, I suffered 3 more concussions until I was forced to retire after the summer leading up to my Junior year. I was becoming more and more tentative after each concussion, something that forced me to think big picture and about my long term mental health. Mental health being something that I had struggled with since my early days as a teenager, and with each concussion, the growing fear of long term damage and increased anxiety over the subject, the decision was incredibly difficult to come by and even more difficult to voice to my peers and my coaches. Through the tears, I came to realize how incredible my experience truly was. My last training session with the team was filled with compassionate hugs and tearful moments that showed how lucky I was to have a family away from home who would support me even if I wasn’t out on the field with them. I know a lot stories are about the overcoming of injuries and how they made the individual stronger-but mine is different. I miss playing the sport I love. Reflecting on the countless sprints, endless trainings, and unforgettable moments I had spent with my 27 brothers, I knew that it was something that I would cherish forever. No matter how many times I was yelled at and no matter how many mistakes I made, it was all worth it. Every minute that I got to spend on the field, battling alongside my closest friends, was worth the blood, sweat, and tears that gave in the time leading up to my early retirement, was unforgettable. Transitioning to a life outside of the sport that I had devoted so much time to, was difficult to say the least. I found myself alienated and alone at times of the day where I would be gasping for air after ten 240 yard sprints. I reached out to my dad who had experienced something similar in his collegiate career. What he told me will resonate with me forever, “you are not defined by soccer, you are more than just that”. Hearing these words gave me a newfound confidence to go out and attack my daily life with the same ferocity that I did my training sessions. ​ And for those who are struggling with this same thing, all I have to say to you is that you are incredible, and these things you have been through, and all the scars you have accumulated over the years not only make you stronger, they make you unstoppable.
My name is Chloe Boice and I am a freshman on the Notre Dame Women’s soccer team. June 24, 2016, I collapsed on the field from a weird feeling in my left knee. After getting an MRI a few days later, I found out I tore my ACL, MCL, and small tears in my meniscus. I had surgery a month later and was back playing with my team 9 months later. It was a tough experience physically and mentally, but I knew my goal was to get back on the field and do what I loved. I was able to play a few games in the next season when I had the same weird feeling in my right knee at practice. After another MRI, I found out I tore my ACL. That, of course, was not something easy to hear, but I was motivated to now get back on the field because I was heading to college soon and wanted to be able to play. I had surgery October 4, 2017 and about 9 months later, I was hoping to get cleared to play when I arrived for preseason. I got cleared 2 weeks after I got to campus, but I ended up redshirting because I still had a lot of catching up to do. I was able to play and was starting to feel like I was finally getting my “touch” back when my hips started bothering me in October. They started to feel worse and worse the more I was sprinting, but I was trying to push through it because I felt like I still had something to prove. By the end of November, I couldn’t finish practices because of the pain. I decided that this was something more serious that I originally thought it was, so when I went back home for winter break, I got x-rays and MRI’s. It wasn’t until I got back to campus when I found out that I have torn the labrums in both of my hips and will need two more surgeries. In the past 3 years, I feel like I have spent every day trying to recover from countless injuries and have more months to come, which seems disheartening. However, the amazing people that I have in my life and I have met along the way have supported me through my highs and lows, and I would not be here without them.
In May of 2015, I was feeling on top of the world. I had just graduated high school with a great academic resume and an even better golf career. I had one summer season left of my junior golf career before I would enter my first season of collegiate golf at James Madison University. As nervous as I was, I felt such confidence thinking about all of the great things I would get to experience at JMU. I imagined myself getting a stellar 4-year education at JMU while also being a major asset to their golf program. What I did not imagine was getting severely injured just two months before attending college. I was playing my favorite golf tournament of the year—the Maryland Poindexter cup. It was a bittersweet tournament for me because it was my fifth and final Poindexter cup. The first day was extremely wet and foggy. Five holes into my round, my teammate, my competitors and I were walking across a wooden bridge. I was the first to step foot on the bridge and I could tell it was slippery. I turned around to tell the others to be careful walking across the bridge. As I told them to be careful, I slipped and fell backwards on my hands and my golf back landed right on top of them. The pain I felt in that moment left me with a chill up my spine and terrible wrist pain in my left arm. As others rushed to help, I tried to get up on my own and immediately noticed my hand and wrist turning purple. I tried to brush it off and continue to play, but it was tough. My coaches at the time were giving me ice, Advil, athletic tape, and anything else they could find that would help. I knew I couldn’t stop playing or else I would have to forfeit that match for both myself and my teammate. I played the rest of the round swinging with nearly one arm so my teammate could keep playing for us. After that round, I iced my wrist and hand and just hoped that I could sleep off the pain. Needless to say, things did not get better and I was forced to forfeit my last match and head to the emergency room for x-rays. My x-rays came back clear and I was told that all I had was a bone bruise. My doctor told me that bone bruises were a little difficult and that I would have to be out of golf for 6-8 weeks to fully recover. I gave it every bit of that time and still felt shooting pain through my wrist. My doctor then told me maybe I needed more physical therapy and attention to that area. I listened to what he and my former physical therapist had to say, and I didn’t pick up a golf club until the week before I moved into my dorm at JMU. At this point, I was suffering from severe anxiety because I knew I was going to be playing “catch-up” to try and qualify for tournaments. I started going to counseling as soon as I got to school to try and cope with the anxiety and my injury. I continued to play throughout the fall season and things continued to be painful and get worse. My forearm and hand turned white and I couldn’t feel anything touch me from my elbow all the way down through my fingers. I kept being told that things would get better through PT, so after the season was up, I stopped playing golf until January of 2016. Once the spring season started back up, I went straight back to playing through the pain. At this point, I was in PT three times a week and counseling once a week. I was struggling to handle my injury, my emotions, and the fact that this “6-8 week” injury was tearing me away from the sport I love. After a couple weeks into the spring season, my team doctor recommended one more outlet and wanted me to get tested to see if I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). I went that May and it was confirmed that I had thoracic outlet syndrome from the fall I had the previous year. My TOS involved my top rib puncturing a nerve, an artery, and a vein, which explained why I was having no feeling and a reduced heart beat in my left arm. (TOS is essentially a whip- lash injury, which can help to explain how hard I fell.) After getting the diagnosis, my doctor said my options included surgery, more specialized PT, or a botox injection that would numb the pain for the time being. I still wanted to stick to my plan of graduating in 4 years and playing golf, so my stubbornness did not allow the surgery at this time. After I got back to Maryland after finishing my first year at JMU, I stopped playing golf again and received the more specialized treatment from a new PT. Things were going great throughout the summer. After a year of being through a lot of pain I was feeling much better. I was told to stay off the golf clubs for a while so once again, I picked them up one week before going back to JMU for my second year. I wasn’t feeling great about the season coming up because I hadn’t played all summer, but I was feeling better about being in less pain. I played in a few tournaments during the fall season and during my second to last tournament I re-injured myself by hitting a rock under my ball that I didn’t know was there. I grabbed my arm immediately because I felt that same chill go up my spine that I had felt 16 months prior. After getting home from that tournament, I walked into my former coach’s office and completely broke down. We had a long talk about what my future would hold at JMU and we both knew that I wasn’t going to be what I wanted to be if I didn’t get the surgery. After leaving her office, and even before telling my parents of my decision, I called the surgeons office to set up my surgery for December 22, 2016. After making that call, I felt such relief in the fact that I would hopefully feel better after my surgery, but also an enormous amount of fear of the chance of never being able to play golf again. On December 22, 2016, I had my top rib removed. Immediately after surgery, I regained feeling back in my left arm and the color had come back. I was excited to feel immediate results, however, the pain I felt from my surgery was excruciating. I was told more times than I could count “You’re young, you will recover fast”, but that was not the case for me. I struggled in every aspect of my life, including trying to retrain myself to breathe without that rib. I stuck to my PT, but I could no longer keep up with my school work. I had to withdraw from JMU and finish out my PT at home in Maryland. I was miserable, embarrassed, disappointed…and so many other emotions. I didn’t want to have to withdraw, I didn’t want to keep feeling this way, I wanted to play golf again, I felt like 6 months later I should be feeling significantly better…but it wasn’t the case. I questioned every day whether I would be able to play golf again. Nine months later, I slowly started to get back into golf with putting and light chipping only. I was still in my third year at JMU, so I knew I had some time to still make a print in my golf career if I worked hard enough, which I was willing to do. I was able to increase my golf little by little each week and played my first round of 18 holes eleven months after my surgery. In the spring of 2018, I was back to practicing fully with the team, but was not playing well because I was still in some discomfort and had not played in a long time. As I got closer and closer to being able to qualify, my anxiety got stronger and stronger. The anxiety made it difficult for me to perform and made me feel like I was never going to play in a tournament again. I didn’t play at all during the spring of 2018 and didn’t qualify until the very last tournament in the fall of 2018. This was all due to the amount of anxiety I was feeling. Getting back into the line-up was tough, but I am hopeful and more confident now that I will be able to play in more tournaments in the spring of 2019. I share my story to other athletes because I think it is so important to help people with not only their physical scars, but their mental ones too. As athletes, we push ourselves so hard that we often neglect to take care of our mental health. I used to hide it from everyone that I receive counseling and HAVE received counseling for 4 years now. I have learned this the hard way, but sometimes you need help and I was fortunate enough to have people that I could turn to talk to or people that would help me deal with my physical and mental stressors. I want people to know my story so we can start to get rid of this stigma that “college athletes have everything going for them”. That’s just not true. We are human, we struggle the same way everyone else does. I look back at all that I have been through and think about how tough things were, to the point where I wanted to give up on the sport I loved because things got way too difficult, but I also think about where I am at now…thrilled that I am back on the course and was able to play in my first tournament since my surgery this past fall. My story is not over...I have a lot of goals for myself since I have an extra year of eligibility at JMU, but I hope others can learn from my story that the fight is not over until you say it’s over…and mine is definitely not over!!!!!
I never heard of Compartment Syndrome until my first cousin, Bailey Cartwright, was diagnosed with bilateral compartment syndrome in August of 2017. A year later I began training in the summer for my upcoming fitness tests for my Sophomore Soccer Season with Malone University. I started running multiple miles per day on the track, asphalt, and treadmill. I started to feel a pain in my legs near my calves and shins. I thought I was just getting shin splints from running a lot. I didn’t run in proper running shoes, so I thought getting a pair of running shoes would help. My mom bought me a pair of Brooks’ and about 2 weeks later the pain was getting worse. The day I figured it was not just shin splints is when I was running on the treadmill and my legs went completely numb. I thought how ironic would it be if my cousin and I both had compartment syndrome a year apart. I never would’ve thought I had compartment syndrome if it wasn’t for Bailey having it before. I told my girlfriend and my family that I thought I may have compartment syndrome and they thought I was overreacting just because Bailey had it. Well, one day before move in day I went to the doctor to get it checked and from there we set up an appointment for the pressure test the next day. While my team moved into to school, I had the pressure test. My numbers were already so high at rest, the doctors told me I needed surgery. Surgery was set up for a week later, so I went to preseason for 4 days before coming back home for surgery. I had surgery August 16, 2018 which was almost exactly a year (363 days) after Bailey’s...weird. (Oh yeah, it’s NOT genetic, as far as we know). Surgery went well, 2 incisions on both legs and I missed my sophomore season. After playing so much my freshman year this was toughest thing I had to go through, mentally. As an injured person, you feel that your role on the team becomes less significant. The coaches are more worried about the players who can perform and you are just along for the ride. I started to feel like I was more a team manager than a player on the team. I wouldn’t wish a season ending injury on anyone. My family and girlfriend gave me a lot of support for recovery. Some days were worse than others. Not being able to practice or play can really kill an athletes mindset. The injury can ruin a career if you don’t have the mindset to come back better than you left it. I am back to full training now, and at times I find my legs still bother me. I think it is something that I will deal with for the rest of my playing days. As for my scars, they tell a story of irony and struggle. The scars won’t leave a bad memory, but a memory of recovery and strength. This injury is just a bump in the road, not a dead end.
My name is Jessie Scarpa and I am on the women's soccer team at The University of North Carolina. At the beginning of my senior year of high school, I experienced the rite of passage as a female soccer player-- a torn ACL. Fortunately, I was already committed to UNC, so I was able to graduate high school early and enroll in college in that January. My freshman season started slowly because the training staff wanted to ease me back into playing. I had a successful sophomore year with minimal injuries, and was rewarded with the opportunity to play in the U-20 World Cup. I had to redshirt my junior year to do so. The spring after the World Cup, I began to have severe groin and glute pain whenever I ran. I had various scans done, but nothing significant appeared in the results. I continued to play through that offseason with a painful undiagnosed injury. Towards the end of the semester, I got a PRP injection to heal the only issue they saw-- a torn groin. I spent the summer rehabbing and getting back into shape. At the beginning of the next preseason, my groin pain came back. I continued to play through it until I suffered a knee injury early in the season. I tore my joint capsule and sprained my MCL. I was treated successfully with another PRP injection, this time to my knee. After my 8 weeks of recovery, I returned to play mid-season. My knee felt great, but the excruciating groin and glute pain were still there. I had an MRI for my hip, but still nothing showed up in the imaging. I intended to play through the pain and get it figured out at the end of the season. I made it through about six games until I suffered a devastatingly familiar pain in my knee. I tore my ACL, medial and lateral meniscus. I had surgery in November 2017. Once I was off of crutches, I was sent to a hip specialist in Philadelphia to figure out my hip pains. I had been playing with a torn labrum and a sports hernia. In February 2018, I had surgery to repair the hip and the hernia. For the remainder of that spring semester, I was rehabbing a repaired ACL in my left knee and a repaired labrum in my right hip. It was not easy, but I trained hard all summer to get ready for my fifth and final season at UNC. Unfortunately, my groin pain was still present, however, it was not nearly as severe as before. I was focused on improving a little each day, so by the end of the season I could be in-form to sign a professional contract. About halfway through the season, I felt a cracking in my left knee. I re-tore my meniscus and had to undergo surgery to remove it. Obviously it was devastating to suffer another injury and not get to play out my last season, but my teammates still made it a season I will never forget.
My name is Kyra Lambert and I am a senior captain on the Duke Women’s Basketball team. On March 18, 2017 we were playing our first round game in the NCAA tournament when I went to grab a loose ball. A player on the other team dove for the ball as I was picking it up and in a split second my idea of what my college career was going to look like disappeared. As soon as it happened I knew what it was. After I was helped off the court and got an MRI, I was told I had torn my ACL and meniscus and would need surgery. Fast forward 9 months to January of the next season (which I redshirted). I was almost cleared to play again, and in practice I planted to take a layup and boom... there it goes again. I could walk on it and jog a little, but I knew something was wrong, so I got it checked out and was told I tore my ACL again and would need another surgery. I was hopeful, because I knew the timetable for recovery would put me at the beginning of this current season. I was excited to be coming back after missing last season on the court with my teammates. Fast forward 9 months to October, the week before I was going to get cleared. I was doing an agility drill and boom…a third time. I just walked off the court and sat down. I couldn’t believe it. Not once, not twice, but three times. This game has put me through my highest highs and my lowest lows, and I don’t regret any of it. Throughout this process I have grown much more than I could have ever imagined both spiritually and mentally. My faith is the biggest reason I have been able to get through this season of my life. I know God doesn’t make mistakes. Staying grounded spiritually and being positive about my circumstances has helped me so much and I pray it can bless someone else too.
My name is Jenna Byers I’m a junior (redshirt sophomore) on the Texas A&M Women’s soccer team. I’ve faced a lot of injuries in my time as a college athlete, but I know it’s the adversity that God used to showed me who I am and where my purpose and identity lie. I started college a semester early in the spring of 2016. In the first week of practice in February I tore my right ACL and 3 days later was told I also needed to have surgery on my right hip because I had a torn labrum. I had my knee surgery in March, then 12 weeks later had my hip surgery in June. I redshirted my freshman year and wasn’t able to practice until November, the end of our season. In the spring of 2017 I was finally playing soccer again. That April during our last spring game I tore my left ACL. I rehabbed all summer and was released to play again in October- 4 and half months after surgery. Fast forward to 2018; in August, a week before preseason, I tore my hamstring and was out for 12 weeks. I missed all but the last 5 games of our season. In 3 years I’ve played a total of 47 minutes and have never played in a real game on our home field. Though it has been hard and I have been broken down, I know the Lord created this perfect path to bring me closer to Him and live a life for the Kingdom. When college athletes face long term injuries we feel overlooked, undervalued and irrelevant in the sports world. If we chose to believe these lies then we live in defeat- but if you live by the truth which is that He never forsakes us and that our value lies in more than just our sport, no matter the circumstance we can live with Joy and show the strength of our scars!
Hey my name is Matt Womack! I am a redshirt Junior at the University of Alabama and I play football. I have been playing football for the past 16 years and it is something that I have always been in love with. My story is that I started last year (2017) for the entire season and we won the National Championship. It was some of the best memories of my life. Doing what I love with my teammates by my side and going out and accomplishing the ultimate goal is the best feeling ever. So what happened to me is that I ended up tearing my labrum in my shoulder during the Auburn game but I had to wait for my surgery. I went on to the spring in the off season and during a workout I landed on the side of my foot and rolled over it, causing it to fracture. I ended up breaking it and having surgery in March. After that I finally got my labrum surgery 6 weeks later. The spring and the summer were extremely hard times because I didn’t know what it was like to go through an injury. I kept my head up and knew that I would get through it all. So finally after months of rehab and getting my strength back, we started fall camp. I was competing to get my starting spot back but a couple of weeks in, I rolled over my foot in practice and rebroke my foot and two of the screws in my foot. This was rock bottom for me. I was sad every day and never had any motivation to do anything. I talked to my family about it all and they supported me and helped me get through the hard times. I never thought I would get back to being happy again but I found that during my darkest times is when my family and friends were there the most. I am currently not starting but I am the back up for multiple positions on the offensive line. I have another year to get my spot back and hopefully go to the NFL. My injuries really tore me down in the past but they have taught me more about myself than I ever thought was possible. I will never take another day for granted because you never know when it’ll be the last day you will get to do what you love.
My name is Mike Lehmann and I am the head coach of the Notre Dame Men’s Rowing Team. I was born with an undiagnosed neuromuscular disorder. Sure, this made things a bit harder for me, and I was always the smallest, but it never slowed me down - I was still trying to beat everyone else in soccer and basketball as a kid. My entire childhood was spent going to long doctor appointments each month, with neurologists trying to figure out what my condition was and if it was stable. Scoliosis was a side-effect of the disorder and it was getting worse. I grew up wearing back braces every day to try and stop the scoliosis. When I was in seventh grade, sports all of a sudden became more difficult. Even running a lap down the court resulted in extreme pain. A year later, I was diagnosed with perthes, which is a disease that causes the bone cells in your hip to die. The only surgery available was a temporary fix to rebuild my hip with bone from other parts of my body and hold it together with a few screws. One of the more devastating phrases I have ever been told was “you need to stop playing sports.” The recovery from this surgery was the most painful thing I have ever gone through; spending 6 weeks not able to get out of bed, a month in a wheelchair, and a full year of crutches following that. I was convinced that my days of competitive sports were done. To add to it, a year after recovering from my hip surgery, my scoliosis progressed enough to need a full spinal fusion. There are titanium rods holding my body up from my butt to my neck. When I got to college, I was looking to satisfy my love of sports and walked onto the rowing team as a coxswain. I was not doing my body any harm and I could be very competitive, so it was the perfect fit. That was going very well but during my junior year, my hip started hurting just walking around Notre Dame. Eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t walk anymore. Three weeks before my senior year started, my doctors decided to do an emergency full-hip replacement on the hip they had worked on a few years before. This was inevitably going to interrupt the start of my senior year, but I was committed to not let it slow me down. I had to stay out of the boat for the first month of our season, which was very tough to do; I was a senior captain on the team watching from the sidelines. A few weeks before our big race of the fall - the Head of the Charles - I was cleared to compete. There was one caveat to that, I still could not bend my hip past 90 degrees. The guys in my boat had to pick me up and set me in the shell in a way that didn’t let that happen. I could not climb into the boat like usual but once I was in there, it was game time. I was so excited to be competing again. I had a coach in college who said “people like you fight harder because you have been through some shit and you have to push through it.” I never want to be known as the guy with the disability; I want to be known as the guy who does whatever he wants despite any setbacks that may come along. I’m stronger because I have to be; there is really no other option.
Adam Grinwis Orlando City SC
I’ve been playing soccer religiously since I was a kid. Through almost 20 years playing the sport, I never had a serious injury. I never had to miss time, undergo a surgery, or be out of the goal for an extended period of time. I’ve always dreamed of playing in MLS, North America’s top professional soccer league. Following four years of college soccer at the University of Michigan, I was hoping to continue my soccer career at the professional level. My MLS dreams weren’t materializing so I shipped out to Rochester, NY to prove myself in the United Soccer League, the second division. During the first week of training, I made a save that caused serious pain in my wrist. As a rookie looking to assert myself, I elected to keep playing and do my best to ignore the pain. A surgery to repair a fractured scaphoid would come at the end of the season. The scaphoid is a small bone in the wrist that has limited blood supply, so it is a slow healing process. A 4-month hiatus from goalkeeping ensued. It was a painful and difficult rehab process but I assured myself I would do everything possible to prepare myself for my second season in Rochester. I was cleared to be back in goal the day before preseason began. 5 weeks later, we had our first game. I played well and felt confident my wrist issue was completely behind me. The following week I had a routine check up with my wrist surgeon. Upon examining the x rays, the surgeon concluded the surgery hadn’t taken. The same bone in my wrist had re-fractured. The painful procedure and all of that time out of the goal suddenly felt like a complete waste when I was told another surgery was inevitable. Still wanting so badly to assert myself, I attempted to postpone the surgery and play through the pain again. Within months the pain was too severe and the wrist surgeon told me I needed to repair the bone if I ever wanted to play professional soccer again. The second surgery was much more invasive. A piece of bone from my femur, at the top of my kneecap, would be removed and placed into my wrist to replace the dead portion of the scaphoid bone in my wrist. They would have to open up my leg as well as my wrist. In this time I was out of contract and unable to train for 3 months. I contemplated if all of the rehab and effort to prove myself was really worth it. Honestly, I felt lost and alone. Thanks to the motivation and encouragement of my family and close friends, I pried my way out of that dark place and worked my way back into training. By the grace of God, I was offered a new position on a 2nd division team in St. Louis. Another opportunity. In a completely new place of life, I was finally playing pain free. I also had two massive scars on my body to show for it. I was able to play an entire season with no wrist issues. Plus, to come full circle, after one season in St Louis I finally got the opportunity in MLS I had been working to achieve. In many ways I feel this is just the beginning to my story and the scars I have are just a reminder of how close I was to calling it quits. They are a story of not only one of the lowest points of my life, but also one of the most defining points of my life. I learned that soccer is what I do, not who I am. I had become obsessed with achieving my goals that I lost sight of who I was as an individual. Following that second surgery I learned so much about myself, I grew closer to my family, I grew stronger in my faith, and I made deeper friendships. I also gained a larger admiration for my sport and how much hard work you need to put into it. Lastly, it gave me a deeper appreciation for every time I step into the goal. Now every day when I put my gloves on I see the thick scar on my wrist and am reminded to never to take a day in there for granted. I am so thankful for every day I get to play the sport I love.
My name is Maddy Coady, and I am a junior on the Women’s Rowing Team. I committed to row for Notre Dame in October 2015. In February 2016 a MRI showed that I had two spinal disc issues: a bulging disc at my L4/L5 level and a herniated disc at L5/S1 level. I arrived to campus in August 2016 barely able to sit in my 75-minute classes, let alone row. As a brand new freshman, being severely injured is a nightmare. I felt isolated from the rest of the team, and questioned whether this process was worthwhile everyday. During the summer of 2017, I was sure that I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel: I was pain free for the first time in years. In my final days of summer, I ended up unable to walk due to excruciating pain in my foot. Once again, I returned to Notre Dame unable to row. Over the next few weeks, I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Basically, my brain was so accustomed to the nerves in my body signaling pain that once the pain in my back was gone, my brain malfunctioned and thought it was instead receiving intense pain signals from the nerves in my foot. This is an extremely rare diagnosis, and was really challenging for me to understand. Throughout my sophomore year, I was tested an incredible amount due to these seemingly endless injuries. I was physically rowing and competing for the first time in almost three years, but I found myself resenting the sport I once loved. In August 2018, I returned to campus healthy for the first time. This journey has truly shown me some of the highest and lowest moments of my life. Rowing is slowly becoming something I love and find confidence in again, and I am excited to be able to represent Notre Dame in the way I always envisioned: by going fast with my friends.
My name is Alexis Bengel and I am a sophomore on the women's soccer team at Pitt. In 2014 during my junior year of high school I suffered my first major injury which was tearing my left ACL. After a long recovery process I began to feel like myself again. I got an offer to play Division 1 soccer at Pitt which was extremely exciting because I love the school and it is very close to home. My knee felt great and I was ready to take on this new challenge. It felt like everything had finally fallen into place. Unfortunately right before I was due to report for preseason I suffered an ACL tear to my right knee. The thought crossed my mind of, will I ever play soccer again? But I was determined to keep fighting. I had been through this injury before so I knew what to expect. It was a very difficult first year in college for me, but that was not going to stop me from getting back on the field. It took me 10 months to feel like myself again. I spent countless hours in the training room doing rehab as well as in the weight room gaining my strength back. It is very hard to sit on the sidelines watching your teammates play knowing that you are unable to be out there with them. My family, friends, teammates and coaches have always been a huge supporter of me during both of my injures and I would not be where I am today without them. Being injured has taught me so much about myself and has given me a different perspective on the game of soccer. You want to cherish every moment you have on the field because at any moment that can be taken away from you. My scars are a constant reminder of the struggles and adversity I have overcome to get to where I am.
My name is Karly-Lynn Heffernan, and I’m a senior at Harvard University. I played for the Women’s Varsity Ice Hockey team in my Freshman year and Sophomore year. I also played for Team Canada for five years until I broke my right foot at a National camp in Spring of 2016. In Fall of 2016, I was faced with the decision to take a year off from attending Harvard to get surgery and to save my eligibility. After getting a bone graft in my talonavicular bone in my arch, they realized there was more needed to strengthen my foot. One year later in Fall of 2017, I got a second surgery to place a screw in my navicular bone. Unfortunately, the ending result of this foot injury has caused me to move on from Hockey and my collegiate sports career. Despite the disappointment of this, I remained positive and motivated for the next chapter because I knew it was all I could do. Since retiring from the sport that I played from the age of 3, I have stepped out of comfort zones and I have been able to refocus my priorities onto building closer relationships with family and friends that are outside of the sports world. These scars on my foot continue to remind me of all the hours put into training and getting to where I am today, and I couldn’t be more proud and grateful for how this situation has shaped me and given me the opportunities to pursue new goals and hobbies. Stay Strong -- it all happens for a higher purpose! :)
I had finally recovered both physically and mentally from a year long injury that I thought I would never overcome. I was healthy, excited, and ready to tackle all the new opportunities and challenges that Notre Dame would present – with the first challenge coming just two weeks into my first preseason. My name is Sandra Yu, a former member of the Notre Dame women’s soccer team, and on August 17th 2013 I tore my ACL. Initially, I was left feeling defeated but I quickly shifted my mindset and convinced myself that my injury occurred at the perfect time (as if such a thing exists). I told myself I have exactly 12 months to get back in shape and be ready for the 2014 season. As a result, I did just that. I put my head down and worked like hell to be strong and healthy. Before I knew it, August of 2014 arrived and I was cleared to play. I was excited, nervous, anxious, and happy to get back out on the field. Fast forward to the end of the 2014 season and you’ll see I didn’t play a single second of the season. I was so mentally defeated after this season that I strongly considered quitting. I questioned my worth. I thought I was undeserving of my scholarship because I was healthy and still not contributing on the field. I was ashamed and embarrassed because I truly believed I had let down so many people who had invested in me. I did not deserve what I was getting from Notre Dame because in my eyes I didn’t think I was giving anything back. That winter break, I went home honestly not knowing if I would come back. I continued to train hard, hoping that something would click one day. Day by day, I felt myself letting go and playing more free – I found myself actually enjoying rather than dreading being around a ball. I found myself loving soccer again. I came back that spring with a new attitude and found myself starting the spring games and from that point on I started every game I ever played at Notre Dame. They say a typical ACL recovery time is 6-12 month. I even errored on the side of caution, but it wasn’t until a full 18 months after my injury that I finally felt like I fully recovered. These extra six months of recovery represent what I failed to take care of during the first 12 and that was my mind. I failed to tackle the mental side of my rehab the same way I tackled the physical side. From this long recovery process, I learned two simple lessons: 1) never give up on what you want to achieve and 2) be patient (something I am still working on). So for me, my scar is a constant reminder that I am a fighter and will persevere even when it would be easier to give up. It’s a reminder of the power of the mind. It’s a reminder of all the support I received from the incredible people that surrounded me. It’s a reminder of all my teammates, friends, coaches, staff, trainers and family that stood by my side when all I wanted to do was quit. It’s a reminder of how blessed I was to stay one more year at a place I wish I never had to leave. It’s a reminder of what it took to get to where I am today and what it will take to get to where I want to be tomorrow. It’s a reminder to always bet on myself.
My name is Jack Beare. I am a senior on the Notre Dame Lacrosse team. My senior year of high school I completely tore my PCL while playing lacrosse. The PCL lies just under the ACL and provides support for the femur and tibia bones so that they do not shift around during intensive cutting and running. After tearing my PCL, I was told that I would not need surgery but would rather have to strengthen my quad and hamstring in order to compensate for my lack of a PCL. Sophomore year I got my first surgery done in order to replace all of the damaged cartilage and bone fractures in my knee that were caused by my shifting tibia and femur. I was unable to walk for 6 weeks and relied heavily on my mom the first week and half where I could barely leave my own bed. After working so hard to return to the field after my first surgery, I began practicing with the team again my Junior year. I had aspirations of getting playing time until the pain started coming back. After 2 months of dealing with the pain, it got to a point where it felt like I hadn’t gotten my first surgery. After weeks of MRI’s and meeting with doctors, I was finally told that I had to stop playing lacrosse and begin looking into two major surgeries that would fix both my PCL and destroyed cartilage so that I could live a normal active life. I now have a cadaver PCL and cartilage implants in my knee. The post op struggles where quite difficult as I was non-weightbearing again and I had the most severe pain I’ve felt the first few days after surgery. When I reflect back upon my surgeries I am extremely proud of myself because my struggles made me a stronger and more positive man. My relationships with my friends and family became much stronger after my surgeries because I realized just how many people truly care about me and my well-being. No longer being able to play lacrosse was a very difficult realization as I had worked my entire life to play lacrosse at a top tier division 1 program. I could not walk away from lacrosse completely so now I help out as a student-coach for the team.
My name is Jack Sheehan and I am a junior on the baseball at Notre Dame. In high school, while playing basketball, I injured my right hip but dismissed the injury after having multiple MRIs and X-rays that came back negative. The pain reappeared but was manageable enough for me to ignore for the majority of my time at Notre Dame. Sophomore year, the pain became much worse and my leg would often give out. With the recommendation of the trainers at Notre Dame, I got an arthrogram to further investigate the source of my pain. I discovered that I had torn my labrum in my right hip and developed a severe hip impingement back in high school. I decided to delay my surgery until the end of the season with the hope that my hip would hold up for the spring. Four days after our season ended I had surgery in New York, where they repaired the tear and shaved off the bone in my right hip. Luckily, the surgery went very well but I struggled in the weeks after with the tasks of everyday life. I was in bed for 23.5 hours of the day for the first two weeks and struggled to sleep. I relied heavily on my parents and brother to put on the recovery machines, bring food up to bed so that I could eat, and assist me in getting out of bed. Although this has been one of the most testing experiences I have ever endured, it has helped me develop an even deeper appreciation for my family, friends, and community at Notre Dame. I feel lucky to have gone through surgery and recovery with such an amazing support system. Through this process of sitting in the dugout, I have come to realize there is much more to being a teammate than contributing on the field. The three scars I have from the surgery may be very small but they serve as a reminder of what I have gone through to become even stronger today, both as an athlete and a person.
Hi, my name is Cassie McCarney and I am a student-athlete at Gwynedd Mercy University in Pennsylvania. In 2016, my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia. Chiari Malformation is a condition where the brain extends down into the spinal cords and Syringomyelia is when cyst forms within your spinal cord, putting pressure on your spine. Through the years playing volleyball had frequent headaches and I just thought it had to do with not eating or drinking enough. Then, the shoulder pain started, the pain extended into my neck and down my right arm which eventually went numb. I worked closely with my athletic trainers and team doctors to get to the bottom of my pain. Throughout the years the diagnoses went from torn rotator cuff to neck strain to herniated disk to finally Chiari Malformation. The team doctor sent me for an MRI on my neck which is when we found the problem, Chiari Malformation. Now, all the headaches, balance issues, neck pain, numbness, dizziness and the occasional vision problems made sense. I had to go see a neurosurgeon as soon as possible to discuss what to do next. The doctor said my best option with having the syrinx, is to have brain surgery. At that moment, my world came crashing down. Questions began running through my head: “Will I get to play again?”, “Will I be able to go back to school on time?” and so many other questions. December 2016, I had my surgery to make my skull bigger and remove my C1 vertebrae. The surgery was to reduce the pressure on my spinal cord and brain stem while allowing the cerebral spinal fluid to flow normally along with halting the progression of my symptoms. The recovery process was a painful one. I returned to school two weeks later to finish my sophomore year. I was able to return to the court for my junior year and I was named a captain for my senior year. Today, I am still living a pain and symptom free life. This experience has taught me how strong a person actually can be. It was a struggle explaining to people what was going on because on the outside, I looked fine. Some people told me “Oh, everyone gets headaches” but what they didn’t know was that it felt like I was fighting gravity daily. It was hard to do daily things like sit up for long periods of time or drive, the things we take for granted. This experience made me realize that we cannot take things for granted. Make the best out of each day and to play each game like it’s your last.
​My name is Shane Combs, and I am a senior pitcher on the baseball team at Notre Dame. In my very last appearance as a high schooler, I blew out my ulnar collateral ligament in my elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery to repair it. I The surgery took place that July, just a few weeks before heading to Notre Dame to start my freshman year. The recovery would take the whole year, so I redshirted and did not play. I spent my first college baseball season watching from the stands or on my laptop as my teammates played and traveled without me. I felt completely isolated from my team but soon I would be healthy again, and as a sophomore I knew I’d have the chance to contribute. ​When fall ball started my sophomore year, my elbow was back to normal, save for a 6 inch scar tracing the inside of my arm. But only a month into the fall, I hurt my shoulder. After rest and rehab and trying to return to pitching again, an MRI showed I had shredded my labrum. This news devastated me, and I didn’t understand why I was the one getting hurt. I had just rehabbed for an entire year for my elbow, spending extra time in the weight room and training room pushing to get healthy. I didn’t deserve another injury, and I let my sorrows get the best of me. It wasn’t until that November that my attitude would change for the better. My strength coach approached me, and simply asked why I was walking around every day defeated. With that question, he challenged me to change my attitude and attack my rehab with the same passion that I felt for pitching. Surgery followed that December, when I had half of my labrum arthroscopically trimmed and removed. This surgery had been a setback, but it shouldn’t have meant the end of my pitching career. On a freezing cold day in March, I made my college debut, eclipsing 90mph with my fastball and striking out the only two batters I faced. My coach gave me the game ball, and triumphantly I finally had made my return to the playing field. Except, I hadn’t. A week later, I woke up unable to lift my throwing arm from my side. Back in the MRI tube I went, and that May I went for my third arm surgery, another arthroscopic operation to remove debris and trip my labrum. Only this time, once they were in my shoulder, they found a rupturing bicep tendon. What should’ve been an arthroscopy with a short recovery became a bicep tenodesis. They cut the shredding tendon, drilled a hole in the head of my humerus, and used a screw to affix the loose end of my bicep in that hole. I woke up from surgery to this news, again devastated that recovery would be much longer than expected. Worse, this surgery meant I may not throw as hard anymore, if at all. My doctor told me I was at my limit; any more injuries and I could start to have life long shoulder problems. He couldn’t make me not pitch, but he couldn’t recommend that I try. After so much time out of serious competition, my junior season was forgettable. I made four ugly appearances, struggling to throw strikes. What I needed was time and practice, things I could ill afford at that time if I wanted to play in any games. I finished the year healthy, spent the summer training and resting my arm, and now I’m about to finish my senior year of fall ball. For the first time, I’ve gone through fall ball completely healthy, hopefully en route to a dominant senior season. The lessons that came from my injuries are plentiful, but let me share the most important ones I learned. First, there is life outside sports. I had friends and family supporting me the whole way, and at some point I realized that I didn’t need to pitch for them to see me as me. When you’re injured, you can feel like your whole identity is compromised, so never forget that you’re still yourself, and your belonging never comes into question just because you’re hurt. Second, attitude is everything. You can play the victim, ask “why me?!”, and sulk, or you can buckle down and be tenacious about recovery. Taking ownership of the recovery process gives you freedom to still push yourself physically every day. Be positive but be real. It’s okay to be scared, nervous, anxious about if and when you’ll play again. Lean on your teammates and push them to continue to get better too. Stay engaged mentally. This will all go a long way when you return to the field. Finally, be proud of your scars. They may not look pretty, but they are badges of courage and determination. My injuries drove me to be a better person in so many ways other than in baseball. The grit it takes to stay positive, attack rehab, stay engaged with your teammates, and eventually return to the field can drive you to excel in so many things other than sports. So wear your scars proudly, they have made you who you are.
‭My name is Matt Habrowski and I am a former Notre Dame soccer player. Early on during my time at Notre Dame I developed problems with my lower legs in the form of chronic shin splints. After suffering through a few years of terrible pain in my legs (pain which caused other injuries during my career as well), I finally was diagnosed with medial tibial stress syndrome and decided on surgery after my senior season to alleviate my pain and frustration. My surgery consisted of two compartment releases in my calves and scraping away the facial tissue along my shins. I spent 3 weeks on crutches wearing special boots that filled with cold water to help ice my shins. It was debilitating and the pain during these first three weeks was unbearable at times. It was a frustrating yet humbling experience to be so reliant on other during this time, which is something I can appreciate now. The road to recovery should’ve lasted about 8 weeks but one of my wounds became infected which led to a delay of nearly another 2 months. I visited the wound care center in the hospital on a weekly basis and watched the size of the scar on my right leg continue to increase during the process. Besides the pain, I was missing out on the spring season heading into my fifth year the following fall. It was challenging to feel like part of the team when I had to watch from the sidelines or miss practices and games due to rehab. This time gave me opportunities to grow in other ways, though, because I was able to grow relationships with teammates off the field and serve as a mentor to younger players. The scar on my right leg, while unsightly, serves as a reminder to me about the pain I went through but I have grown to appreciate it as a part of me. The scar now brings happy memories because I feel free from my past pain and was finally able to enjoy playing soccer again.
My name is Ryan Verhoeven. I am a freshman on the women’s soccer team and UC Irvine. I was diagnosed with bilateral compartment syndrome my junior year of high school. That is when the facia surrounding my muscles were too tight not allowing my muscles to expand during exercise. In December of 2016 I had all 4 of my compartments released in both of my legs at the same time; I was in a wheelchair for about a month and a half until I moved to crutches. I finally went back to playing in April of 2017 but I was still having a lot of issues. After months of doctor office visits and them running every single test they could, I was finally diagnosed from an angiogram with bilateral popliteal artery teal artery entrapment. That is where my popliteal arteries in both my legs were being almost completely cut off. From my knees down I had less than 10% of blood flow and about a month away from amputation surgery due to veins dying and not getting blood flow. In August 7th, 2017 I went into surgery for my left leg for popliteal artery entrapment, I had muscle taken out of my calf and a bypass put in place because of the amount of damage my artery had gone through. After months of recovery I again was having issues so I had angioplasties done to keep my artery from stenosising but that didn’t help. I went into another surgery on April 2, 2018 and I had another bypass surgery done. This time they took the vein from my thigh and rerouted my artery to the inside of my knee. I am 6 months post op and I am still not where I would like to be. I have not had my surgery on my right leg yet but instead I had Botox injections out into both my legs to relieve my pain. It freezes the muscles that are pinching off my veins and arteries. This keep me from having to go into another major surgery. I am about a month post op from that and still waiting for answers. The compartment syndrome surgery scars on my right leg look better because they healed better but the ones on my left leg got infected.
My name is Elijah Burns, and I am a senior on the Notre Dame Men’s Basketball Team. March 7th 2015 is a day that I will never forget. During September of my senior year of high school I was hit in the air on a dunk attempt and came down weird on my ankle. The doctor said that I had a significant bone bruise on my left ankle. At first in my mind I was thinking the recovery for a surgery would not be that bad. However at five am the morning of my surgery I woke up terrified that I would not be able to play again for a while. And unfortunately I was right, and I missed the one event I dreamed about playing in as a kid the Jordan Brand Classic. When I arrived on campus later that summer I was eager to play the game that I loved. Yet again my hopes were derailed because I could not play more thanks n three days without being in serious pain. In spite of not being able to play the opportunity that I received to redshirt my freshman season was a blessing in disguise. In January of that year after a great practice and lift I felt something really funny in my knee. Turns out I needed knee surgery as well. Undergoing two surgery’s within 10months changed my life and perspective on the game. Everything can be gone in a matter of seconds, you have to make the most of the time that you are given.
Have you ever felt as though your only known identity has been stripped away from you in a matter of a few seconds? Well, I have. My name is Brekken Fukushima, a senior at Creighton University and former Division 1 soccer player for the Bluejays. My story begins back in 2013 when I blocked a shot during practice and felt my knee snap backwards. In that moment, I knew something was seriously wrong. At the age of 16 years old, I had experienced my first Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL), and lateral meniscus tear. Against all odds, I bounced back in a matter of a week and I felt unstoppable. 363 days later, just shy of one year, I tore my left knee menisci and Lateral Cruciate Ligament (LCL). And believe it or not, did the same to my right knee only a few months following. It was at this point that rehab and treatment became a daily routine. I was the girl with four microscopic holes on top of her broken, beaten down knees. It felt as though my emotional and physical scars would never heal. Fast forward to this year: I have undergone five knee surgeries, and live in constant reminder of the trauma my body has endured. My fifth, and last knee surgery was by far the worst. I underwent a procedure called Osteochondral Allograft Transplantion surgery (OATS). This surgery left me with a big scar just lateral of my patella and I get to see it each and every day. Immediately after surgery, I was quickly known on campus as “the wheelchair girl” because that was me for two straight months. Dealing with daily treatments, intense and excruciating rehab, as well as having an ugly hypertrophic scar definitely took a toll on my emotional health. I was told that the only chance of me playing the sport I loved again, was if I went through with a double Osteotomy (leg realignment surgery). This turned into the abrupt end to my collegiate career. From one day to the next, I would blame my knees for ruining my soccer career, stripping away my only identity- I hated them. Twenty-five months later, I can say with confidence I am embracing my journey. I have learned to love my past, and stay open-minded. Just because I can’t run as fast, kick a ball as hard, or jump as high, doesn’t mean I wasn’t once a soccer player. My identity lives on and is getting thicker layer-by-layer. So I’ll leave you with this – my name is Brekken Fukushima, a senior at Creighton University, former soccer player, and a girl who is excited about a bright future outside of her own soccer identity.
"Just because I can’t run as fast, kick a ball as hard, or jump as high, doesn’t mean I wasn’t once a soccer player."
My Name is Mikayla Vaughn and I am a sophomore on the Women’s Basketball team at Notre Dame. I fell down during practice my freshman year of college after defending a player only to find out that I had torn my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in my left knee. Your ACL is basically what keeps your knee place and stops it from caving in when running, cutting, etc. It took an excruciatingly long nine months before I was finally cleared for contact. I remember during the NCAA tournament that some of the photographers had taken pictures of the team and when he posted the photographs of me, the focus of the camera was on my scar. At the time, I felt very self-conscious because I didn’t want to be seen only for my scar and not for everything else that I had to offer. I started using skin creams so that it might help my scar look much less pronounced as time went on. During my nine month recovery process, I’ve learned how to be strong for my teammates and strong for myself. I’ve also learned what it was like to be handicapped for an extended period of time. It was an adjustment for sure, but I have a much greater appreciation for the difficulties that folks who are permanently handicapped have to go through. Many of the handicap doors on campus either didn’t work of there were none. I also found it interesting that though my limited capabilities were very much so visible to everyone, I received nearly non-existent help with opening doors, maneuvering the dining hall and many other tasks. It was difficult having to re-learn things that most people were just able to do such as walking, running, or even simple tasks like going to the bathroom or rising from bed, but it was humbling to have start from scratch with seemingly remedial assignments. Something else that I had to learn how to do was sit on the bench for an extended period of time. It was easy to cheer on my team and that’s how I contributed since I wasn’t able to physically. It was easy to find support because I was only one of four girls on the Women’s Basketball team who tore their ACL’s last year so nearly everywhere I looked I could talk to a teammate who was going through the same thing that I was. Surgery was for sure the most pain that I have ever endured in my entire life. The surgery itself was painless, but the following days were filled with throbbing bruises, burning sensations, and screams of agony. Despite the hardship that this injury has brought me, I am glad it’s finally over. I stopped using skin creams to try and hide my scar. If I didn’t have it, it would erase everything that I’ve gone through and, even though it was an extremely grueling experience, I’ve grown much stronger because of it and I can’t wait to play this season!
"I’ve learned how to be strong for my teammates and strong for myself."
My name is Collin Stoecker and I am a senior on the University of Notre Dame Baseball Team. During my freshman fall, I began to feel a constant discomfort in my throwing shoulder every time I took the mound to pitch. During the final game of our fall season I could not get the ball from the mound to the catcher. After taking seven months of rest nothing changed in my shoulder so I was forced to have surgery in which the doctors found my rotator cuff in pieces. I was then in a sling for the entire summer with the hopes of returning to play the next season. After this pain returned, my shoulder was looked at again and the same issues were there. The hardest part of this injury was that there was not anything visible on my body that was different from how I was in high school. I looked exactly the same and yet I had lost the ability to throw a baseball. Two years of rehab and I was unable to fix the problem. Being seperated from my teammates while they traveled was hard as I stayed in South Bend and continued to rehab while my best friends were on the road traveling. This past Christmas I had my final shoulder surgery which has allowed me to remove any pain I was having in everyday life but ended my career for good.
My teammates, family, coaches and friends are the best support system I could have ever asked for. Through this two year long process of seeing my baseball career slowly slip through my hands they were there at every step to keep me as included and part of the team as possible. I will never be able to thank them enough for the support and guidance I received during this tough time in my life. They lead me to find a calling in serving other people, especially my kindergarten friends from Perley Elementary.
My scars are three tiny marks on my shoulder from the two procedures on my rotator cuff. While they aren’t big, they are my small reminder of all of the pain and hard times I went through. Anytime I look at them I find a sense of pride of where I have taken my journey since. Today, being in charge of community service for the baseball team is something I am extremely proud of. Getting to still use my platform as a college athlete to give back to the community is something I find really special and encourage anybody who has the chance to give back to their community to take the opportunity and do so. My scars and my shoulder injury didn’t define me but rather led me to a position to make an impact in other people’s lives.
My name is Luke Barrett and I am a sophomore from South Bend, IN on the Notre Dame men’s swim team. In October 2014, I had my first collapsed lung due to a collision in a pickup football game. I had video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery and the doctors placed a staple line along my right lung. Last September, during one of the first weeks of school, my right lung collapsed again at swim practice, eventually reflating on its own within a couple days. In March, my left lung collapsed and my left chest cavity filled with two liters of blood and fluid. I was rushed out of my house on a stretcher to the hospital because I was unable to even make it down the stairs. Doctors placed three tubes in my chest and I had a pleurodesis surgery with another staple line and a partial lung resection. I was six weeks back into training in June when my right lung collapsed again. I elected to have pleurodesis surgery on my right lung in July with another staple line and another partial lung resection. After the surgery, my lung collapsed again, but the doctors were able to reflate it by placing another tube in my chest.
During the last two surgeries, the doctors purposely scraped up my lungs so that scar tissue would adhere them to my chest walls, which will prevent them from collapsing again. The irritation from the surgery makes recovery very painful, but I have chosen to continue my swimming career.
I have ten scars from the surgeries and tubes. They aren’t visible unless my shirt is off, but they’re a big part of me. Some days they hurt, but I wear them with pride. I used to dislike the appearance of my scars, but now I appreciate them for the struggle they represent. Recovery has been challenging. There are days when it feels there are blocks of cement in my chest. My entire chest is sensitive and tingly because of the nerve damage from the surgery. I’ve learned more about myself through the entire process than I ever could have imagined. Both my emotional intelligence and self-awareness have increased. I think I am a better person because of my injuries and I don’t think I would change things even if I could.
My struggles with my lungs have brought me closer to my teammates, family and friends. I’ve learned how much my team means to me and looking to them motivates me to keep pushing one day at a time. I couldn’t have made it this far without my family, coaches, teammates, and trainer Courtney. My scars remind me to be resilient, gritty and optimistic. I’m glad I fought for my scars.
"My scars remind me to be resilient, gritty and optimistic. I’m glad I fought for my scars."
My name is Bailey Cartwright. I am a sophomore on the Women’s Soccer team at Notre Dame. I was diagnosed with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome in both of my legs during preseason of my freshman year. Compartment Syndrome occurs when the pressure in the muscles becomes too high, resulting in pain, numbness, and swelling. I got my first surgery in august and ended up being on crutches and a scooter for weeks more than I was supposed to be. I ended up getting my second surgery in December. I got to play for the beginning of this season, but now I am preparing to get tested for my third surgery. I have 5 big scars on my shins that I hated at first. I also watch people staring at them so I did everything I could to cover them. Now, I love my scars and I’m not afraid to show them off. The most difficult thing about my recovery process was all the setbacks. I would jog one day on the alter-g, then couldn’t run again for a week because I got swelling. There were times where sitting on the sideline got difficult and the countless hours of rehab was too time consuming, but I always had an awesome support system with my family, my teammates, and our staff. The process of being injured taught me a lot of valuable lessons. I learned how to be a better teammate, how to smile and appreciate things more in life, and most importantly I learned how to use my pain as a way to be there for other people who were/are going through a similar situation.
"Most importantly I learned how to use my pain as a way to be there for other people who were/are going through a similar situation."

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