My name is Alyssa Poarch and I have been playing soccer for over 13 years. I started my soccer journey by joining my first club team at Kirkwood, in my home state of Delaware. I transitioned over to Concord a few years later but was able to finish my youth soccer career with Continental FC. On May 20, 2017, I was playing in one of my last club matches of the year and of my club career, playing the sport I love. Next thing I know, I make a play and I am down on the field in excruciating pain. It was the first play of the game and no one was around me, but I knew something was terribly wrong. My left knee was throbbing, stuck in a very uncomfortable position and I couldn’t move it or myself.
Soon after I fell to the ground, I started getting emotional. After hearing stories of people my age tearing their ACL’s, I thought it would never be something that would happen to me. Since the game was a Saturday, I was not able to get an MRI until Monday which left me two days of waiting in anticipation. I got the results that Tuesday and I was devastated to hear that I had torn my ACL and damaged my lateral meniscus, meaning the recovery time for me would be between 9 and 12 months. The good news was that they wanted me to get the surgery immediately; they knew I was headed to the University of Maryland the next year to continue my soccer and academic career, and I wanted to be able to play.
I had my surgery on Thursday, May 25th, a very exciting day for me because it was the first step in my recovery process and towards getting better. I started rehab soon after, and it was more mentally straining than physically for me. The fact I was told that I couldn’t walk or do certain things frustrated me. I pushed people away because I was angry and hated the way people would look at me like I was a sad case. I didn’t want anyone to feel bad for me because it made me believe that I was not capable of doing everything I was able to do before my injury. For the next two months, I rehabbed at home every other day working on things like range of motion, flexibility, and strength. However, once I got to Maryland, the rehab shifted drastically. Since I had already gotten my full range of motion, they focused on helping me build my strength. Every day I would go to rehab and it was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I was drenched in sweat every time I left, and I would dread going in every day because I knew how tough it was going to be. However, I sucked it up because I knew how important it was for my recovery.
I was able to return and play on my first collegiate game March 16th and it was a day I was looking forward to for a long time. I was extremely excited and I was finally able to return to something that is such a huge part of my life and identity. If it wasn’t for my friends and family who were with me along the way I don’t think time would have flown as fast. The little milestones like getting my range of motion and being able to walk were what helped me most during the process because I knew I was making huge steps towards my return. Even after getting cleared, I continue to rehab today in order to be the best I can be.
To any athlete that may be going through an injury like mine or any injury I want to leave you with this advice… How you respond to your injury and your attitude to approaching life in general defines your character way more than the injury itself. Invest in the people who care about you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not in this alone.