An athlete's worst fear is a season-ending injury – especially when working towards the school's 21st NCAA tournament bid. Jenny Laponte (JL), a defender on the women's soccer team, had a promising junior year starting seven games with two assists. Unfortunately, in a game against Oregon on Sept. 24, she suffered an injury that caused her to miss the rest of the season. SantaClaraBroncos.com was able to talk with LaPonte about her injury and what rehab is like, how she dealt with her injury and what advice she has for injured athletes.
SCU: What was your injury? How/when did it happen?
JL: I tore my ACL and meniscus against Oregon in September 2010. I took a long touch to beat the defender and she came in extremely high on an attempted slide tackle and took out the bottom of my leg. The bottom half of my leg completely rotated and the top didn't. I heard a loud pop and experienced the worst pain I have ever felt in my entire life.
SCU: What is a typical day at rehab like? How many days a week is it?
JL: A typical day in therapy ranges anywhere from 2-4 hours, five days a week. I have been doing therapy since the first day I tore my ACL and meniscus. Before surgery, it was all about trying to strengthen my quad and gain back range of motion because the more you have going into the surgery, the easier it is to regain afterwards. The first month or two after the surgery is all about regaining the quad mass you lost and breaking through scar tissue to gain back range of motion. It is physically painful and emotionally draining because something that seems so easy, like bending or straightening your leg, is nearly impossible. I'm almost at six months, which means I get to run and lift. I started passing a ball for the first time this past week. As time progresses, therapy gets longer and longer because there are new drills and exercises added. It's a huge time commitment.
SCU: How long do you have to do rehab for?
JL: I will have to do it all the way until the beginning of July when I start playing again, but when I come back in for pre-season at the end of July, I will have to spend extra time in the training room before and after trainings to make sure that everything is still on track. Basically for the rest of my time here at SCU I will have to spend extra time in the training room because of my injury.
SCU: Was it hard during the season not being able to play?
JL: It was extremely hard not being able to play during the season. I struggled with the fact that my season was over and that I could not redshirt. Soccer is my life and my passion so it was hard being around the team and at the games.
SCU: What was/is the hardest part about being injured?
JL: The hardest part about being injured is trying to get back into things. I'm just learning to pass a ball again this week and it is ridiculous how hard it is. I watch my teammates and I see the things that they are able to do and I just can't get my legs to do those things yet. It can get frustrating because you know you have the ability, but it is just going to take a long time to get it all back.
SCU: How do you stay positive about not being able to play?
JL: It goes through phases. Some days I am really positive and pumped and others I keep my head phones on and stay in the training room. Our strength and conditioning coach, Coach Marshall, told me that "the best great athlete takes everything one baby step at a time", so that is what I decided to do. Each day during therapy I would only focus on that exercise I was doing and I would tell myself that if I finish that set I am one step closer to getting back out on the field – it helps a lot.
SCU: When will you be able to play?
JL: I could play this spring season, but I'm going to take my time and come back in July with my Mustang team. I do not want to wear the brace that most players wear after this kind of injury so I am going to take the extra time in therapy to avoid wearing it.
SCU: Are you excited about getting back on the field?
JL: I can't put into words how excited I am to get back out on the field. Since I have been hurt I feel as though a part of me has been missing, and I know that part will come back the moment I am 100% healthy and back. Soccer is my entire life and having it taken away for months only strengthened my love for it.
SCU: Do you have any advice for athlete's who have also become injured?
JL: Don't deny that it sucks to be injured. I think too many people put on a brave face and try to face trainings, team meetings, etc. acting like they are ok. It's ok to show how you really feel. Whether that means you want to be surrounded by your teammates or if you need your space – you need to voice YOUR needs because that is what is important. Physically you will heal with time, but mentally and emotionally you may never heal if you don't take care of your needs properly. Also, don't let anyone rush you into getting back into things too fast. Too many athletes get reinjured because they rush back into things because they feel pressured by coaches or teammates. The most important thing I can emphasize is that this is your injury and you need to do what is best for you.
SCU: What is your team doing for Spring quarter to prepare for the Fall?
JL: We have Spring ball coming up. We practice five days a week with our soccer coaches and then three days a week with our strength and conditioning coach. Also, we will have five games to help us better prepare for the Fall 2011 season.
The Bronco women's soccer team will be playing their second Spring game versus Fresno State at SCU at 1 p.m. on May 1.