Playing through the pain


Emma Leff

At a cold, rainy soccer practice last April I remember lining up to kick a long ball. As soon as I had kicked it, I knew something was wrong. My quad was extremely tense and it hurt to walk. I tried to ignore it. Our tournament started in two days and I did not want to miss it.

As I warmed up for the first game, I strained the muscle again, but I played anyway. I lasted 60 seconds before I had to come off the field. Instead of being out for one to two weeks, my decision to push through lengthened my injury time to four to six weeks.

During those long weeks, I sat at each practice and game wishing I could play. I returned for the last few games of my club season. In the last game of the season, I felt a dull pain in my hip, but once again, I ignored it.

After a three week break, the high school season began. The tryout process was intense and I wanted to make varsity. With one last day of tryouts remaining, a quick change in direction resulted in a sharp, throbbing pain in my hip. I couldn’t walk normally. I was diagnosed with acute inflammation of the iliac crest. The muscle attaching my hip to my abs was ripping and each movement tore it further and further. The prognosis was unclear; it could take a day or six months to heal.

The high school season is very short and I was eager to play my first game on varsity. After four weeks of rest, I jumped back in. Unfortunately, four weeks was not long enough. Within the first 10 minutes of my third game, I reinjured my hip and was out for the rest of the season.

All of these injuries were hard to deal with. It was frustrating that I couldn’t stay healthy and play the game that I love. Soccer allows me to challenge myself, relieve stress and spend time with my friends. Without this outlet, I was bored and often stressed out.

I decided I was going to be much more proactive in my recovery this time around. Once the season ended, I immediately started to do physical therapy sessions twice a week while also exercising at home. I held off on playing contact soccer for two months. Eventually I progressed into strength training two to three times a week in addition to practices and games for my club team.

Eight months later, I just finished my first varsity soccer season without any injuries. I am very proud of the hard work that I put into getting my strength back. These injuries have helped me realize that perseverance is rewarded and how important waiting is, rather than jumping back into things before I am ready.