By: Cullen McIntyre, Sports Editor
Suffering an injury is a nightmare for all athletes. For student-athletes, it’s something that can affect them in their classes as well as in their sport. Audrey Pohl, a sophomore media studies major and women’s basketball athlete, suffered a bad ACL sprain last October. The injury saw her out of her freshman season for fourth months last year.
Student-athletes put long hours of effort and practice into their sport each day, which can bring about an injury from wear and tear. Pohl, sustained her injury in practice, “I was doing some transition drills in practice and I went up for a rebound on both ends,” she said. “I felt something weird in my knee. I took a spill and was taken off the court, I realized I couldn’t walk anymore.”
Pohl, instantly went to the athletic trainers for diagnosis of her injury, “I went to the training room and they gave me crutches because I couldn’t walk,” she said. “Then they checked me out with the doctors there two days later and then I did some MRIs and an X-ray at the hospital where they found out it was a bad sprain.”
The recovery process for each athlete is different, depending on the severity of the injury and how their body reacts to the process. Pohl went through the process of physical therapy at Saco Bay Physical Therapy in Gorham, “The first few weeks was mostly just figuring it out and trying to learn to walk again. Then they set me up with physical therapy and I went there like two to three days a week, I did that until about January after getting injured in October,” she said.
With an injury like Pohl’s, there was a lot of difficulty having to re-teach herself basic motions like walking and jumping, “I didn’t run until December, a couple days before winter break. The worst part was trying to learn to jump again because the reason why I messed up my knee is because I landed badly. I had to do a lot of jumping stuff at physical therapy and it was painful,” she said.
Pohl still spends time working on a full recovery, having worn a knee brace and putting in work on her own, “I then wore a knee brace, and I still do my own recovery stuff now,” she said. “My quad was the biggest problem because that’s the first thing to go, last thing to come back, so I do a lot of extra quad strengthening workouts and a lot more stretching with that leg.”
The injury impacted her life not only as an athlete, but her day-to-day process. Being on crutches on a college campus would be trouble for anyone, but Pohl looked on the brighter side, “With the crutches I couldn’t really get places easily, but I did get on the bus first and got a nice seat.”
But when it came to the athletic side, it was something she had never experienced before, “I had to sit out of every practice and every game, and I’ve never done that in my life so it was really weird and kind of stressful on my mindset. I had a lot of mental stuff going on, and there was physical pain everyday.”
According to the NCAA, the mental response to suffering an injury can cause or trigger mental health issues such as “depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and substance use or use.” For Pohl, the injury affected her mindset, “When I would sit out and watch practices I would kind of be thinking like, why am I here, why did I deserve this injury,” she said. “I thought I was a really good player when I first started out here, but then when I was injured I saw everyone passing me skillswise and I saw the team grow together. I thought when I got back from the injury that I wouldn’t be good anymore. That was probably the biggest part, missing out on learning the plays and getting better as a player.”
Though the mental impact weighed heavily on her, Pohl attended every practice for her team, “I kind of felt like I had to be there first of all, and I didn’t want to miss out on learning stuff. I like to learn by doing, but watching the plays helped me learn quicker. I felt like I had to be there to support the team and to figure things out myself.”
Being around the team kept her motivated and involved, getting to bond with her teammates like she never had before, “Hanging out with the team, when we did stuff outside of practice it made me feel like I was apart of the team even though I wasn’t playing,” she said. “Going to the games, I felt like I really grew in my energy and stuff because I never used to be a person who would cheer on the team as much as I could. I would be quiet because I would be thinking through what I’m doing in the game, but since I had a different perspective, I was sitting there taking stats instead of playing in the game, I was able to watch more and cheer on my team. I felt more supportive than I could have been had I been playing.”
The first game back is a memorable day for any athlete coming back from an injury, whether they’ve been out for a week or for an entire year. Though Pohl didn’t have an unforgettable performance, she will never forget stepping back onto the court for the first time, “The first game I went in for two minutes and turned the ball over two times. Obviously I wasn’t ready but it was the most exciting moment ever because my whole family came to watch me play. My brothers and my parents came from Michigan to see my debut, even though I went in for a minute and didn’t play well,” she said. “It was really exciting, I came off the court smiling and laughing, and couldn’t believe I played in a college game. In practices it felt really good being able to run again and actually play, it felt really good coming back.”
The women’s basketball team begins their 2019-20 campaign on Saturday, November 9 hosting Regis College. Pohl is excited for a healthy season, and to make her mark, “The comeback, I just want people to see that I’m some person who got injured and never came back. I want them to see that she’s really good. A lot of people thought I was going to do good before the injury and now some are saying I’m gonna have a hard time,” she said. “I want to comeback as if it never happened. I still wear a knee brace and still feel a little uneasy about my knee, but I want people to look at me and think ‘oh she’s 100% healthy’ and bring the stats up.”