My name is Jenna Winebrenner and I am a junior on the Notre Dame women’s soccer team. On September 20th, 2018 we were playing at Louisville in our first away game of the weekend . Midway through the first half Louisville had a break away. I was playing center back as the ball was sent forward to the runner. As the ball came near, I slid to redirect the pass, hoping to slow down the runner and allow my teammates to get into position. As I slid, I extended my leg out, barely getting a toe on the ball. It didn’t redirect as far away as I was wanting. As the forward circled around to regain possession I quickly began to get up. While attempting to get up, my body continued moving forward faster than I could control. I struggled to make it up in an athletic fashion. As I went to push my body up, my left elbow bent in the opposite direction sending excruciating pain throughout my arm. I was able to get up and finish the play with my teammates helping to clear the ball out of our 18 yard box, when the play was over I sat on the ground, knowing something was wrong. Initially, they thought I had only hyperextended my elbow, maybe straining some ligaments. I played the rest of the game and the next road game with my arm taped in a straight arm position. When we returned home I had an ultrasound done on my elbow, determining my UCL was completely torn, the classic Tommy John injury. Because I am not a throwing athlete, the trainers and I decided against surgery and decided to allow the ligament to heal on its own. The rest of the season I was put in a brace to immobilize and protect my elbow.
After winter break we came back to spring training and that’s where the real problems began. The pain in my elbow had escalated and I lost feeling in my left hand during practices and games, especially my ring and pinky fingers. I was in rehab everyday before practice and back after practice complaining about the pain I was experiencing. I was then sent to for an EMG which tests the nerves in my arm and it was determined there was damage and impingement to the Ulnar nerve. The healing of the UCL ligament caused the scar tissue to impinge the nerve, causing all of the pain and numbness.
I had surgery in April going into Easter break. The doctor performed a nerve release and transposition, moving my ulnar nerve from one tunnel to another in hopes of relieving the pain and numbness. I have been recovering and doing physical therapy for a little over two months now and hope to be playing at full capacity with no brace in the fall.
As a division 1 athlete, this was my first major injury and first ever surgery. The pain that I went through taught me a lot of things, but most importantly it showed me the support system that surrounds me. I could not have played the rest of the year without the people who surrounded me. My teammates, coaches and staff were crucial in guiding me through this unfamiliar time and reassuring me it would be okay. I will be forever grateful for the people around me that have and continue to support me through my highs and lows.