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.