On Sunday I took a major step in my recovery from ACL surgery: I played soccer for the first time since last December.
And it was a major step. Just not the kind I’d anticipated.
First, some background. All along I said I’d return to physical activity like Adrian Peterson returned to NFL football. I even hung a picture of him on my bedroom wall and reasoned that if Peterson could bounce back from knee surgery with one of the greatest single seasons in NFL history I could return to soccer and skiing. This, then, is how I imagined things would go:
I felt great before the game. I’d stretched for half-an-hour before leaving the house. Once I was on the field I was running and twisting and pivoting with minimal discomfort, and I was even kicking the ball well. My first two shifts passed uneventfully. My third shift started uneventfully…and then, as I was running with an opponent down towards our corner my knee suddenly crumpled beneath me.
I writhed in agony for a few seconds, then pushed myself onto my feet and walked gingerly off the field. Then I removed my knee brace – yes, I’d been wearing one – and walked up and down the touchline. I knew something wasn’t right, but I could walk, and while I was sore it wasn’t the kind of this-hurts-so-much-I’m-screaming-into-the-side-of-a-mountain pain I’d experienced on Goat’s Eye. And so I did what any self-respecting guy would do: I put my brace on and jogged back onto the field. It couldn’t be that bad…could it? But then the knee buckled slightly again – and thus my comeback ended after four shifts with me signalling to the bench and mouthing the words, “I’m done.” As I was walking off one of my teammates scored what turned out to be the winning goal.
The next day, ironically, was my regularly-scheduled surgical follow-up. Instead, it effectively turned into a brand-new surgical consult. The diagnosis: another torn ACL. Adrian Peterson out, Michael Owen in.
But what can you do? In retrospect I should’ve waited to see my surgeon again, but when you’ve been forced off your feet for over half-a-year you’re champing at the bit to get back out there. Stuff happens, you know? I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary: the injury happened while I was running in a straight line. Short-term, this means a re-jigging of 33-for-33, the selling off of my ski equipment (I was planning on getting new equipment after the season was over anyway) and a week off work to neutralize the swelling…not to mention the lingering, dull pain. But after that I’ll be fine. I’ve been given a great pre-op routine, and while it’s not soccer or skiing it’s at least something that’ll keep me active. I’ll know what to expect this time. And if Sunday was the end of my playing career, it’ll be the impetus for me to really pursue my coaching qualifications. You watch: I’ll make an Adrian Peterson of this situation yet. And in the meantime, don’t forget that Michael Owen still had his City moment.