WHERE THE “SPORTS PTSD” PROBLEM COMES FROM:
For most of her soccer career, Meg was an all-star keeper. She had great reflexes, tremendous speed and a good head for the game. Her instincts were uncanny and she elevated the play of any team she was a part of. Right through junior soccer, ODP and high school ball she dominated the competition and controlled the game. She always seemed to be one of the best players out there on the pitch. One reason for this was that Meg was simply fearless in the net. She never hesitated to move off the line when the situation called for it and her aggressive play intimidated opponents, distracting them into thinking about her instead of what they were doing. She was All-State in high school four years in a row, got a full ride to a top Division I program and had a very successful collegiate career, playing on a National Championship team and being named Collegiate All American several years in a row. Meg had been on the U18 National team going into college and continued to play at a national level right up until the accident. She was so close to making the world cup team when it happened.
It had been a fiercely fought game up to that point and she had already made two spectacular saves. The other team was bringing the ball up to her left, when one of their forwards hit a cross in an attempt to set up a streaking teammate. As the situation called for, Meg came out fast and aggressively to the ball and collided hard with this player. The sound of the collision was so loud that Meg’s teammates on offense at the other end of the field could actually hear it. Both athletes went down in a tangle of arms and legs. The opposing player although badly shaken, eventually got back up. However, Meg still lay on the ground writhing in pain, holding her right knee and screaming uncontrollably. She had broken her kneecap and ripped her ACL in the process. While she knew she was badly hurt, she never could have guessed that she was out for the season and then some.
The rehab process was long, hard and extremely painful. The physical pain was the least of Meg’s discomfort and that was certainly no picnic. Her rehab sessions were so excruciating that they frequently left her in tears, and this from an athlete who prided herself on being hard-nosed and tough. However, her physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional turmoil that the injury had caused her. For the very first time in her life troubling self-doubts crept in. She was frustrated that she couldn’t play and increasingly concerned at how long she had to be out of the game. She’d missed a game or two during her career, but had never been this badly injured that she had to be out almost a year. She worried about her comeback. She worried about whether her knee would heal properly and hold up under the physical demands of her game. She worried about losing a spot on the National team. Not being able to train was driving her absolutely crazy and, for the very first time since she had started playing this game, she worried about her competition and not measuring up.