Rising from the nightmare
Ana X. Martinez Lima (She/Her) // Contributor
Sophia Spanos McGill (She/Her) // Illustrator
Knee ligaments play a crucial role in our bodies. In this area, we find two ligaments called the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament, forming an “X” inside your knee. Specifically, the ACL is the most commonly injured ligament in the knee for athletes. It is located below the kneecap and is the closest to the front of the knee.
The rupture or tearing of this ligament can occur for various reasons, and can even happen to non-athletes. From playing soccer with your friends to practicing gymnastics, being involved in a car accident or a fall, there is no specific way it can happen; it can happen to anyone. The ACL provides stability, connects the bones, and prevents our knee from bending or rotating too much. During training and sports practices, the body is pushed to its maximum potential, increasing the possibility of injury. That’s why strengthening the muscles for greater protection and stability of our joints and ligaments is of paramount importance.
Catrina Olstrom of the Capilano Blues women’s soccer team shares insight from her experience injuring this vital ligament, explaining how it happened and her journey through the recovery process of such a delicate procedure.
On June 5, 2022, Olstrom sustained an injury during a soccer match with Altitude FC, a semi-pro team here on the North Shore. During the game, she felt her leg become locked in the ground, and at that very moment, her opponent ran towards her, causing her leg to twist. Olstrom recounts that, upon impact, she heard a popping sound. That was the moment she realized that something was wrong. “I was crying and screaming immediately, but not because of the pain, but because I knew something bad had happened to my knee.” She could only imagine the worst.
Injuries of this nature are categorized into various grades, ranging from a minor tear to a complete ACL rupture. These gradations serve to identify the extent of the injury and dictate the appropriate treatment approach. Starting from grade 1, which represents the least severe, and culminating with grade 3, the most severe. Typically, the pain experienced when sustaining such an injury isn’t attributed to the ACL itself, but rather to the surrounding structures. In Olstrom’s case, she had partially torn her meniscus too, which was the source of her pain.
She was promptly transported to Royal Columbian Hospital, where she was placed on the surgical waiting list. The surgery ultimately took place on September 21 of the same year. Following her ACL tear, Olstrom was required to rest for two full days before she could start walking again. After the surgery, it took her almost three weeks to bear weight on her leg, and approximately more than four weeks to walk without the assistance of crutches. The pace of the recovery process can vary from individual to individual, contingent upon the severity of the injury, but it often proves to be a slow and arduous journey for many.
For Olstrom, this injury has brought significant changes in her life, and she delineates her recovery process in two distinct phases: the physical and the mental. The mental struggle, by far, tends to be the most formidable, as it necessitates contending with one’s thoughts and emotions daily. “Being confined to your bed for one month while watching your friends and teammates play on TV is strenuous. Watching the sport you love and knowing you can’t play for at least another year is something I don’t want to go through again.”
Her coach, Dennis Kindel, remained a constant presence, endeavoring to ensure she still felt like an integral part of the team. Olstrom took charge of the team’s social media accounts. This evoked a mixture of emotions—sadness stemming from her inability to be physically present and witness everyone’s joy in the photos as they engaged in the sport she loves. However, it also served as a source of motivation, propelling her to invest her utmost effort to regain her place on the field.
This season, Olstrom has returned to the team with renewed vigor, cherishing every moment she has been through, while also being stronger and more attuned to her body and how to properly care for it.
Her journey demonstrates the intricate process of recovering from an injury for over a year. Injuries will invariably intersect with our lives; although we may be unable to avert many of them, we can certainly take preventative measures and remain ever-prepared for any eventuality. Now that Olstrom’s back playing, she shouts out her team. “Physically being with my teammates in some sort of capacity was the most beneficial thing for me for my recovery process. I had the motivation to heal completely and be able to play my sport again.”