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Injured athlete finds way to rise again

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Click on the animation above to follow senior Jenna Santoro's journey to recovery. It includes audio excerpts from the article below as well as a 3D ACL reconstruction video.

“As soon as I heard the pop, I fell straight down on my side.”

Senior Jenna Santoro tore her ACL while defending the goal during a soccer tournament  with her club team, Premiere Rush, on May 10th.

“I knew something was immediately wrong,” Santoro said. “It was an away tournament and I had to stay until my dad picked me up and took me to the hospital. It was hard for me to concentrate on what had just happened because so many things were rushing through my head.”

For someone who has been playing soccer since the age of five, tearing an ACL and being out for seven months is the worst news she could receive.

“It was honestly the worst timing,” Santoro said. “Junior year is crucial for recruitment, and I got hurt right in the middle of it all.”

As soon as Santoro realized what surgery and recovery was going to entail, she felt like she was never going to get the chance to play soccer again, let alone in college. She wanted to have the surgery as soon as possible and begin her long road of rehabilitation.

“I tore my ACL on the 10th and had scheduled surgery for the 19th of May. It’s safe to say I was really scared about what was to come because I had no idea how I would handle the recovery,” Santoro said.

It’s safe to say I was really scared about what was to come because I had no idea how I would handle the recovery.”

— Senior Jenna Santoro

The two-hour surgery and hour recovery following it was nothing according to Santoro, who claimed the first week after the surgery was the worst. “It was absolutely awful having to sit in the same position day and night for seven days straight,” Santoro said.

To begin her recovery process, Santoro was put in a leg brace until she was able to walk without it.

“I lost every muscle in my leg which was the strangest feeling. The hardest thing for me was getting my range of motion back,” Santoro said.

She had trouble getting the bend back in her knee, and still does to this day. Although she felt helpless in many circumstances, Santoro knew the harder she worked, the faster she would recover.

“At three months I was able to jump,” Santoro said. “And at four, I could jog.”

At that point, Santoro was able to walk without her brace for the first time and had to relearn some of the basic balancing skills. “The most frustrating thing about the whole process was the fact that I couldn’t do so many of the normal things I was able to do before,” Santoro said.

In addition to her physical frustration, Santoro had a hard time watching the rest of her teammates play while she sat on the sidelines.

Despite her injury, Santoro made it to every tryout, game, and practice.

“She was a huge supporter of the team showing up to 6:00 a.m. tryouts even in the summer,” senior and varsity soccer teammate Caroline Sdanowich said.

Despite the difficulties she has been dealt, Santoro has worked hard to regain the strength in her leg as well as her position in the sport. “I’m hoping to be cleared by the end of November which means I could be playing as soon as December,” Santoro said.

The whole time I had to watch the games from the sidelines I kept telling myself ‘I just wish I could kick the ball.’”

— Senior Jenna Santoro

Santoro has had to refine her search to smaller schools, since her injury has set her back as far as ability, but she still hopes to compete in college.

“I didn’t imagine I would still be considering schools for soccer, but I couldn’t imagine not playing,” Santoro said. “The whole time I had to watch the games from the sidelines I kept telling myself ‘I just wish I could kick the ball.’”

Although Santoro was dealt with a major injury at an extremely inconvenient time, she’s been able to find the positives in the whole experience.

“I’m actually focusing my Senior Project on my recovery,” Santoro said. “I’m planning on making an informational PowerPoint on women’s ACL tears as well as shadowing a physical therapist.”

Through the ups and the downs of recovering from a large injury, Santoro is just thankful for the fact she’s able to play the game she loves again.

“During the entire process my dad has been my biggest supporter,” Santoro said. “I can’t wait to get back to where I used to be.”

Hanna LeBuhn is the Print Chief for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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Injured athlete finds way to rise again