First Person: My knee injury taught me to value everyday mobility

For as long as I can remember I’ve been playing soccer. In those many games I played, I’d never once received a significant injury. I thought I was invincible, until I suffered an excruciating injury one rainy night in July 2022 at Immaculata High School where my invincibility no longer existed. I was playing in […]
Photo: Justin Hancock-Lefebour
I was taught as a young kid both literally and metaphorically, when you get knocked down your first instinct is to get back up and fight.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been playing soccer. In those many games I played, I’d never once received a significant injury. I thought I was invincible, until I suffered an excruciating injury one rainy night in July 2022 at Immaculata High School where my invincibility no longer existed.

I was playing in a 7V7 soccer game and had just scored a goal for my team. The next time I touched the ball I planted my foot on the the ground and turned my body in the opposite direction. A second later, I heard a loud pop. Then, I found myself on the ground with my kneecap dislocated and my leg essentially split into two.

I remember screaming my brother and teammate’s name, “Nari!,” asking him for help, then thinking to myself “oh my god what just happened to me knee?” I always thought to myself that I’d be smart enough, savvy enough to be the player who never gets injured playing a sport and I’d be able to navigate a way to keep myself safe. This injury taught me that I am not immune to getting hurt.

I was on the ground thinking about the the best plan of action for the situation. I was taught as a young kid both literally and metaphorically when you get knocked down your first instinct is to get back up and fight.

So, staying true to the way that I was taught, I popped my kneecap back into place and stood up as if nothing happened and walked off the field. I may have appeared as if I was okay, but the amount of pain I felt in my knee was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life.

Thankfully, I only had a very slight tear in my meniscus, which is the small bone between your thigh and lower leg that absorbs the shock from your body weight. I gratefully didn’t need surgery, as it was a slight tear. I was however, bedridden for around three to four months whilst doing physiotherapy but was unable to walk properly for nearly half a year.

My experience was also extremely humbling and made me realize how fragile humans are and how quickly things can change from one moment to the next. One second, I was celebrating a goal I scored with my teammates, and the next instant, I’m on the ground thinking I’ll never be able to walk again.

I was unable to play soccer again fully for close to a year. It had been the longest time I’d ever not played the sport, which was very mentally taxing and forced me to pick up other hobbies. Things such as reading and writing poetry became the activities I took up until I fully recovered.

I am not the only one who has experienced an injury like this however, as my good friend and Carleton Ravens men’s soccer team player Kevin Kaba. He had a similar experience.

“I had some crazy injuries this year,” he said. “I pulled my left groin, sat out for about a month and a couple weeks.”

“When you get hurt there’s a lot of feelings that go through your head,” said Kaba. “There’s doubts of when you’ll be back, if you’ll be back the same as before the injury. You have to be strong mentally. Being away from the team while injured, kind of disrupted my mental in a way, for the simple fact that I felt as if I was alone during those times.”

I had seen numerous gruesome injuries in my life so I was familiar with what an injury could look like but I was unfamiliar with the recovery process and just how debilitating it could be. Normally, I would just get an ice pack or sleep it off and be fine the very next day, but this was an significant injury that taught me a lot of lessons.

The big lesson is to appreciate and not overlook the everyday things we can do without even thinking about them. The basic ability most share to be able to walk is truly a blessing. My physiotherapist said that injuries like this can force you to never be able to walk the same or play sports again, so I got off lucky.

Physiotherapist Tony Azzi says that how quickly your knee heals and how severe the injury is can vary based on different factors.

“It depends on the severity of the situation, each individuals body weight, history, assessment everything about them is unique so I’d have to assess them accordingly,” said Azzi.

Watching my family members and friends walk casually and easily while I had to gingerly move myself in slow motion, almost crawling to an extent, to get to where I wanted to go really struck me. Other basic human functions such as tying your shoelaces or picking up grocery bags from the trunk of your car were things I could not do unassisted.

I had to work tirelessly and follow physio instructions to rehabilitate my knee and get the full mobility I had before. I did walks around my neighbourhood and would walk up and down my steps trying to rebuild the muscle I had lost.

It was a very depressing time for me as the soccer season wasn’t over yet. So, to keep myself connected with my team I decided to become their coach and encourage them from the sidelines.

I’m now able to play freely but there’s always a thought in the back of my mind to be cautious when I’m playing so that I don’t hurt something else or re-injure the same knee as I did many years ago.

To this day, I still feel some minor clicks in my knee, and I’m forced to be attentive of the fact that it isn’t as strong as it used to be. I have been back to the field of the incident, but I have not played on it. However getting the injury i sustained truly taught me a lot.

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