Injured But Never Broken

It was December 4th when 17 year old track and field athlete, Katie Roy, was at her first practice of the year with brand new coaches. She was going to take her first jump from her full long run. She was in the air going over the bungee when she realized she was going to land on her stomach. Midair, she decided to flip onto her back. Her legs got caught under her and she came crashing down on them.

Katie runs the 4x400m relay at the 2018 State meet

Hearing sounds of popping and crunching, Katie knew it wasn’t good.

“I just felt really nauseous and really scared. I didn’t really know a lot of people there, I had a brand new coach and I didn’t know them very well. I just started crying and saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I feel so bad.’ Some people helped me off the mat and I tried to walk but I couldn’t. They were trying to find an athletic trainer but they couldn’t find one at USM. So they went outside and they found a sandwich bag and they put snow in it and that’s what we used to ice my knee with,” Katie explains.

They tried to get her into the emergency room that night, unfortunately the hospital was too busy to get her in. Katie had to go home that night and attempt to sleep. The next morning, she got CAT scans and the final diagnosis.

Katie’s knee 4 days after surgery

She had a tibial plateau fracture in her left leg, had ruptured her ACL, tore her MCL, and tore her meniscus.

According to Stanford Children’s Health, more than 3.5 million injuries are experienced by high school students each year. Senior athletes are working hard all season to catch the eye of college recruiters. In some unfortunate situations, these athletes can experience injuries that could force them to change their college path.

With the thoughts of hearing back from her top choice college, Colby College, in a week, she wasn’t sure if this would change her plans for the future.

“I called the Colby coaches and had to tell them that I had injured myself. I was so grateful because they were so understanding. They weren’t really phased by the injury. They were just like ‘yep you’re going to get through it, we’re not worried about it, let us know if there’s anything we can do, we want to help you through this as much as possible’,” says Katie.

The doctors initially told Katie that her recovery time was going to be 12 months and that there was a good possibility she wasn’t going to be able to run again.

“Just hearing that was really hard because I had worked so hard to train all summer and fall for my indoor and outdoor season this year. I was really trying to get ready to go into college and college athletics and hearing that I wouldn’t be able to run again was really hard,” Katie explains.

Katie’s knee 2 weeks after surgery

Katie had surgery on December 11th (a week after the injury). She explains that they were able to get her in very early because they didn’t want the fracture to start healing before they could set it in place.

Stanford Children’s Health also found that almost one-third of all injuries incurred are sports-related injuries. This is the risk that parents take to let their child participate in sports. With an average of 30 million children and teens participating in some form of organized sport, it is expected that many people will experiences injuries from their sport.

However, some are far worse than others. It’s one thing to injure one part of your body, but it’s a whole other thing to incur multiple injuries from one accident.

Katie started physical therapy right after the surgery for three times a week. On top of that, she also had to do home exercises twice daily. In the beginning, a lot of the physical therapy was Katie sitting on a table while the physical therapist was rubbing out her leg.

“I couldn’t do much with it, I couldn’t put any weight on it. So it was just a lot of massage, a lot of trying to bend my leg, a lot of trying to contract my muscles that didn’t want to contract because all those nerves were destroyed during the surgery,” Katie explains.

Katie’s knee 1 week after surgery

With a severe injury like Katie’s, there comes a lot of sitting around. Katie explains that the first two weeks she didn’t go anywhere.

“My mom and I watched so much tv. We just got so tired of it that I think one day we just sat there in silence the whole day,” says Katie.

She tried to get back to practices and meets as soon as possible, but with outdoor track, it was more difficult.

“It was hard with outdoors because all of the practices were outside and I couldn’t stand around on crutches in the snow. So I would go at the beginning of practice while they all warmed up and say hello and then I’d go home. But I would stay for every meet. I tried to be as involved as possible,” says Katie.

Senior, Hannah Niles, has also experienced many injuries, including tearing her MCL and having multiple concussions. As a star soccer player and Senior Captain, Hannah understands Katie’s struggle of wanting to be with her team.

“The hardest part is sitting on the bench and watching them play without you and knowing that could be you out there. But at the same time, you just try and keep a positive attitude throughout it and that’s kind of what got me through those injuries. It’s hard sitting on the sidelines watching your team play and wishing it was you and wishing you could help your team,” says Hannah.

Hannah explains that although it can be frustrating to not be able to play with your team, the best way to get through your injury is to stay positive and be supportive of your teammates. She says that the biggest thing is mental attitude.

“You have a choice. You can either stay positive and know you’re going to get through it by doing your physical therapy and getting back into shape, or you can go down the other path where you just get down on yourself, and it’s not a good path to take. And I think that’s a big fork in the road for a lot of athletes. How are you going to look at it? What’s your own attitude on it? I think it’s either going to support your future, or put it in a decline,” says Hannah.

With any injury, the support from family and friends will always be the thing that keeps kids going. For Katie, her mom was her biggest support system. Katie explains that her mom took time off of work to be with her for the beginning part of the injury. Due to Katie’s leg being immobilized for the first month, it was difficult for her to even get up and go to the bathroom. Katie explains that she could barely dress herself and that she didn’t shower for almost a month. But through all of it, her mom was there for her.

Katie and her mom at 2019 prom

“It was definitely my mom and I, we cried a lot. It was hard on her, just seeing me in a lot of pain. It wasn’t fun, I don’t like to think about that,” Katie explains.

Robin Roy, Katie’s mother, explains the fear of getting the call that her daughter was injured.

“When I got the call from Katie’s Coach, I was at Nonsuch River Brewery with my husband having dinner. My natural mother instincts took over and I immediately got up from the table and flagged down our waitress. I didn’t know how bad Katie’s injury was. All I knew was that I wanted to get to TA before Katie arrived with her Coach. I wanted to be there to support and comfort Katie,” Robin explains.

As a parent, it is extremely difficult to watch their child go through something as scary as this. Robin explains that the most difficult part was seeing her child in pain. Not just physical pain, but emotional pain as well.

“Seeing how crushed Katie’s spirits were was hard. The only thing any mother wants to do is keep your child out of harms way. If I could have taken all her pain away, I would have. Not being able to do that was hard. We suffered together,” says Robin.

Robin explains that she has grown as a parent from this whole experience. She explains that when we go through hard times, we become stronger. She also says that as a parent, you have to be extremely patient. This injury really tested her patience.

Robin continues by explaining that Katie pushed herself this summer and fall to be ready for the track season. She says that Katie has learned how to tackle life’s curveballs and how communication is key.

“Katie expressed her goal with her physical therapist right off the bat. He didn’t think her goals were reasonable, however, he worked with her to achieve them. After many consistent months of rehab, Katie achieved those “unreasonable” goals. It has shown her how powerful she can be when she sets her mind to something,” says Robin.

With life changing events like the one Katie experienced, it really affected the way she views other people.

Katie 3 weeks after surgery at TA track

“It’s definitely changed my outlook on injuries and people who have disabilities or who are struggling with things. You never know what people are going through so I think just not judging people and always trying to be helpful is the biggest thing. I can’t even tell you how many times people went out of their way to open a door for me when I was on crutches. So many people went out of their way to be kind, and I just want to be able to return the favor,” says Katie.

Hannah wants to remind any athlete to, “enjoy every second you have on the field or any sport you’re playing because you never know when it could get taken away from you. You never realize how much it means to you until you can’t play.”

Hannah’s biggest piece of advice for someone going through an injury is to not let it get to you. She says that although it can be easy to get down on yourself and put yourself down, you have to keep pushing through and staying positive.

Katie’s biggest piece of advice for anyone going through a scary, career altering, or life changing injury is “don’t lose hope even though the odds might not be in your favor, just keep working hard because chances are, if you keep working hard, things will change. My diagnosis was originally 12 months, but because I worked so hard in physical therapy and did everything they said, I’m going to be returning in 5 months. So don’t lose hope, just keep going and stay positive.”

Robin Roy’s advice to any parent that may be struggling to help their child is to “take things one day at a time. Understand the grieving your child is going through. Athletics are an outlet for many people and having that taken away can be debilitating. Try to support your child as much as possible, but don’t forget to relax yourself. I had to grieve Katie’s injury as well. No one wants to see their child injured and upset.”

Katie recently started getting back into running. She explains that she hasn’t been able to do track practice, but she started running a month and a half ago. Katie explains that she started doing simple pole vault drills and that she is starting to incorporate things that she normally does in track practice into her daily life.

Katie finishing the 400m at the 2018 South Western track meet

“Everything’s healed, but I don’t always feel fine. My knee still gets very swollen after physical activity, I still have to ice it, I still go to physical therapy 2 times a week, and that will definitely be through June. I lost a lot of muscle in my left leg so there’s just a big  imbalance with that. My range of motion also isn’t 100% yet but I’d say I’m 85% of the way to being fully recovered. I can’t run up hills or do stairs but if I’m on flat ground and don’t cut laterally and keep going straight forward then that’s fine,” Katie explains.

Katie also says that there is still that fear of getting hurt again and she thinks there always will be in the back of her mind. She explains that all athletics come with the risk of injury, so the more she gets back into her normal routine, the more her mind will go back to how it was before the injury.

Katie’s senior photos 1 month before surgery

Katie will eventually be 100% healed and will still be attending Colby College in the fall to major in Biology and Environmental Science. She is lucky to be healing faster than the doctor’s original diagnosis, and is looking forward to the next four years of her life at Colby.

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