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cleats on feet, smile on face by Emiko P. '25

thoughts on injuries and spring season

Spring season has started, and guess who got to lace up their cleats and practice for the first time in eight and a half months? You guessed it: I did!

Since my injury in preseason this past fall, where a collision in our scrimmage against Harvard left me with a broken bone and a partially torn ligament in my right foot, it’s been a physical and emotional roller coaster. As a junior, it was a bit tough to sit on the sidelines and watch the season slowly slip through my fingers. I remember going to the trainer right after the scrimmage, thinking my foot was just a bit bruised. When they told me I should start wearing a boot, just in case, I couldn’t help but cry – I didn’t want something I had worked so hard for to be taken away by a stupid, split-second collision. Little did I know that I would get well-acquainted with that boot over the next two months.

My first X-ray had great news: no broken bones! The follow-up MRI, not so much. The bone I had broken was so small that it only showed up on an MRI. Even worse, my Lisfranc, the ligament holding my foot together, was simply not intact. It was not fully torn, thank goodness. If it had been, I would’ve been looking at a surgery that would leave me unable to put weight on the foot for three months. Nevertheless, I was in a boot for two months, and I felt totally trapped. I’ve been playing soccer almost non-stop since first grade, and this has been the longest I’ve ever not played my sport.

It was weird to have my body struggle so much with something I did naturally my whole life. Instead of walking, I was dragging, hopping, or sliding around if I didn’t have my boot on. And even once I finally was free from the boot, I had to relearn how to walk properly. I had developed funny walking habits from wearing the boot: swinging my leg like a club-footed pirate and limping a bit because my feet were at different heights. Despite that, I finally felt like a great weight had been lifted from me.

After the boot was off, it was months of physical therapy. Putting weight on the foot was a scary and mighty endeavor. The thought of running seemed so far-fetched. The thought of smashing a ball with my foot seemed even more impossible. As my foot improved, and as the limp vanished, every step felt just a bit lighter. But I always had my eyes set on the end goal: playing soccer again.

Fast forward to now: the start of spring season. For the first time since August, I’m going to the locker room and lacing up my cleats – me lacing up the cleats, not watching everyone else do it – and it’s already a dream come true. Putting on the practice jersey, bringing my ball out to practice – all of it is so simple and routine, but suddenly it now seems so special.

I’m not fully 100% yet. I’m building back to playing for long periods of time, because my foot gets pretty sore after playing a lot, so I am only allowed to play for about half a practice. I also can’t play full contact yet, which means that I can’t run into other players and can only do more technical drills like passing and dribbling.

But here’s what I can do: I can run now. Not even just run, I can sprint. I lead my own line at warmup, because now is when the juniors start taking over the leadership role from the seniors. I can pass, not yet smashing them as hard as I used to, but I’m building up to it. I can play keep-away, I can juggle, I can dribble past mannequins, and I can do it all with my team.

I finally feel like an athlete again, and throughout all the eight months of recovery and hardship, that is the feeling I wanted to regain the most. As the spring season continues, and as the days grow longer and warmer, I hope that my progress also continues. I hope that all the work I’ve put in will continue to pay off.

Something I will always be grateful for is that, when soccer suddenly disappeared, I had an entire community to lean on. My teammates, coaches, and the athletic trainers were there for me every step of the way, asking me about my recovery progress and never letting me forget that I was still a part of the team. Thanks, guys :)

Any kind of injury – or unforeseen setback, really – is so incredibly tough. Something changes just like that, and suddenly there is a before and an after. Clawing your way out of that mess, building yourself back up, is a day-in and day-out effort. It’s like melted down iron that must be reforged and rehammered into shape. Even though I am still on the road to recovery, I finally feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have learned to treasure and love the daily things, the routine things. And I have also learned that if something is taken from me, I will do my very best to get it back.

That’s all for now! I gotta go get changed for practice :)

Soccer players jumping in air.

cleats on feet, smile on face :D