You and I have never met, but we have something in common: quick hips. Two! We have two things in common: quick hips and Achilles tendon injuries. First, I know your physical pain. The sound of the snap, like a line-drive off a wood bat. The immediate, searing pain. And then the feel of it, when you grab where your tendon used to be and your hand just mushes until you’re squeezing bone. Yeah. Been there done that.
Here’s what I don’t know, though. I don’t know what’s going through your mind. When I snapped mine, my career as an amateur soccer player ended. What went through my mind as I lay on the grass in the June, evening sun behind the Audubon Zoo, is that I would never play soccer again. Which, as a thirty-three year old amateur player looking forward to maybe ten minutes in garbage time on Sunday, was probably for the best.
While I can’t imagine to understand your fear, anger and confusion right now, I do want to suggest that the differences between you and me are the qualities that are going to get you through this and give you the best chances of a very successful return. A ruptured Achilles is a devastating injury, no doubt. You’re looking at surgery, a hard cast, then a walking boot and loads of physical therapy. Your return to the field? Eight months to a year.
In a 2010 study of Achilles tendon ruptures in the NFL, a team of doctors found that 61% of professional football players who sustained an Achilles rupture returned to the field. They returned to the game, on average, after eleven months. The study indicates that professional athletes experience a lower rate of return than the general population because of the demands of the game. And those that return generally experience descreased minutes and power ratings.
But return they do. Most recently, the Detroit Lions’ Mikel Leshoure is on the verge of coming back from missing his entire rookie year (2011) to a torn Achilles. David Beckham, who plays the other kind of football, tore his Achilles in 2010, causing him to miss the World Cup that year. But he came back, too. So can you.
Losing you for the season is gutting. To be honest, you put the “man” in “next man in” this fall and it’s going to be a challenge for your coaches and teammates to replace you, especially without Tee Shepard. Does Shumate slide over from safety? Do Atkinson and Brown answer the bell? They can. They can.
And you have every reason to anticipate a return to the game next season because you have youth on your side. You have the best care available and you have the best wishes and prayers of all Her Loyal Sons and Daughters behind you. I am confident we’ll see you on the field again.
But this first part really hurts. You have to get through it yourself. Your family, team, faith and friends are going to help you. A LOT. But the majority of it is on you. You’ve got to stay positive and focused and you can never, ever give up. Giving up didn’t get you to ND. Giving up won’t get you back on the field. Get after it, Lo.