The Salem News
---- — Just for Kicks
Some people may assume that a devastating injury like an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear could take an athlete out of the game forever.
Luckily for most, ACL reconstruction will help these players regain stable knees again, allowing them to return to their respective sports. It doesn’t take away from the fact that these injuries still occur and what’s more, they’re even more common among female athletes.
What has caused this rash of ACL injuries?
Some doctors claim the current emphasis on playing one sport all year long, which leaves no time for muscles and joints to recover, while others say it’s the lack of natural muscle support for twisting or rotational movements around the joint.
On a more local level its a simple fact that the amount of ACL injuries in high school athletes has risen over the past 10 years. Pingree girls soccer coach and director of the girls program at Aztec Soccer, Dushawne ‘Doc’ Simpson says that he’s witnessed a handful of ACL injuries as a coach.
“Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many,” noted Simpson. “Last year I had three of my players tear an ACL and on average I’ve seen about five per year at the club level. The good news that is that advances in medicine make recovery faster and more bearable.
“Players are definitely returning quicker than a few years before. It used to be a mandatory six-nine months, but now I’ve seen as early as five months. At the pro level it’s even earlier. I’m not sure if early is better.”
Two of his Aztec players, Casey Cook (Beverly) and Kasey Provost (Pingree) have just recently returned to their high school teams after rehabbing their injuries.
Cook, who plays center midfield for the reigning Division 1 North champion Panthers, was conveniently cleared to return to action just before Beverly’s first game of the season. Despite going down with the injury in late December, Cook has made tremendous progress and is nearly back to her normal self.
“I’m mentally back, but physically I’m not fully there yet,” explained Cook, who has a goal and an assist over the past two games. “It’s harder to cut now, and that’s what I normally do when I’m defending, so I’m trying to get used to that.”
One of four senior captains for the Panthers this fall, Cook missed just a week of the preseason before being fully cleared to play.
Cook went down to Florida for a tournament with her Aztec team and within the first five of minutes of the opening game, she cut the wrong way and immediately knew what had happened.
“I was defending a girl, heard it pop and my knee just gave out,” Cook said. “I was crying because I knew exactly what I did. It felt really unstable and swelled up very quickly.”
She waited a month before undergoing surgery to repair the damage. The doctors took a hamstring graft and put it where her ACL was. Cook is now battling a strained hamstring, that causes her pain during games.
While the summer is a time for most to relax, Cook spent the majority of it rehabbing with Beverly High athletic trainer Charla Bouranis.
“Casey has been one of my most unique ACL rehabs of all the athletes I have worked with,” said Bouranis. “Unlike most ACL rehabilitations, Casey only spent a month at physical therapy after surgery and I had the privilege of working with her for the next six months. She even woke up early all summer to be at the school at 6 a.m. for therapy.”
Cook actually isn’t wearing a brace when she plays, in part because of all the work she put in over the summer.
“Her rehab finished with some agility ladders and cone drills in which she learned how to cut correctly, decelerate and accelerate,” Bouranis said. “Casey’s hard work and dedication allowed her to be cleared at seven months and not have to wear a brace.”
Provost’s injury occurred during the third game of her junior season. She was dribbling the ball down field and went to cut, when she heard cracking in my left knee. It seemed a little weak after she planted the left foot, but followed through with her shot on goal. Unlike Cook, there was no swelling for Provost, but knew something wasn’t right when she woke up the next morning.
After her surgery in mid-October, Provost went to physical therapy and strength and conditioning classes. She didn’t return to the field until June, when she joined her Aztec team.
“Starting back up again came with some mental blocks, which is the hardest part to get over,” noted Provost. “I wear a brace, but my first games I wouldn’t go into tackles as hard and would be very hesitant. Now, a few months later, the limitations are getting less and less. The only limitation left could be some soreness after games, but that’s it.”
GAME OF THE WEEK: Coming off a Cape Ann League title last year, the Hamilton-Wenham girls soccer team (1-1) is set for a superb battle against CAL rival Masconomet (1-0) at home on Friday. Last season the Generals swept the series matchup going 2-0 against the Chieftains, but it’s a battle each time these two teams meet. Senior captain Kayleigh White is coming off a four-goal game for Masconomet.
Peabody boys head coach Stan McKeen was hoping his team would get off to a good start. After earning a quality tie against Division 1 powerhouse Acton-Boxboro over the weekend, suffice to say the Tanners are confident heading into tomorrow’s contest against Lynn English.
Last year A-B blanked Peabody, 3-0 in the Division 1 North first round, so the tie is a huge improvement for the Tanners.
Just For Kicks, a column on North Shore high school soccer, appears every Wednesday in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Gianna Addario at 978-338-2615, GAddario@salemnews.com and follow her on Twitter @GiannaAddarioSN.