Story of an Hour
4 August 2011
ACL Tear, Age Fourteen
At age fourteen, I was enjoying life. I was a little more advanced in my growth and strength than the other boys my age, so I had taken a liking to playing football. On a fall day in October, our Harlan Cyclones freshman team was playing a Tuesday night game at home against the Atlantic Trojans. The air was crisp and windless.
I enjoyed football so much because I was a “hitter.” I would run really hard and tackle or block the players on the other team with maximum impact. For a freshman I was pretty fierce, actually. My favorite play was kickoff on special teams, because of the high-speed collisions. After three quarters of play, we had a kickoff. True to form, I decided to run as hard as I could and slam into the other team’s biggest and best player. He wasn’t really involved in the play that much. I was trying to land a big hit on him because that was what I tried to do on the football field. I loved it.
Running full speed, I put my left leg out in front of me to gain more speed for the hit, but my leg buckled awkwardly and I merely fell to the ground. I didn’t even reach the guy I was trying to hit; there was no contact. My knee twisted, I stood up awkwardly and hopped to the sideline. “Get in for me. I twisted my knee,” I said, not wanting to interrupt the game. “I think I heard a pop,” I said to a coach.
The game continued on. It actually was our last game of the season. After getting assessed by a doctor in attendance at the game, news came that I had probably torn something. Josh Muxfeldt, a neighbor boy also on the team, said in reaction to this news, “You tore your ACL? Cool.” I don’t think he meant anything by this, but I don’t know.
I left the field with my parents while the game continued on. We got to the emergency room and we met with Dr. Markham, who had a big face with blue eyes and a sharp blonde haircut. He was manipulating my knee as I was laying down under the fluorescent lights, turning it in a circle and observing how loose the joint was because it lacked a ligament. My father was looking on with wider and wider eyes and his face took on a pallor. He almost passed out before he sat down.
When we got home, my left knee was in a brace and I was moving around with the assistance of crutches. I sat in front of our family television, and I looked down to see my knee misshapen into a grapefruit-sized swollen mess. Soon I would have surgery. My knee would heal but I’d reinjure it and I’d need the same surgery about a year later. It’s odd that I like sports so much, but I do.