I have always believed that my life experiences would guide me to what I would choose for a profession…I just didn’t think it would happen after a singular event.
I was part of a great junior high baseball team. We had pitching, hitting, speed. We had it all. We ended up winning a conference championship that year, and to a 13 year old, that was a big deal. I was a role player on that team, and I wanted to earn more responsibility for the next year.
Our two starting pitchers were moving, which would leave a big gap on our team. I thought I could fill in that role. I worked tirelessly after football season to build up my arm strength and work on my mechanics and delivery. Coach Kris Davidson spent hours after school playing long toss with me.
When tryouts rolled around, I was ready! I had been preparing for this for months!
Our first week of real practice came when tryouts ended, and we could finally get to work. One early morning practice, our intensity and focus weren’t very good. We were playing an intrasquad scrimmage, and I was being aggressive on the bases despite my mediocre speed.
Our coach gave me a sign for a hit and run when I was on second base. I took my lead, and as soon as the pitcher began his delivery, I put it in compound and took off! I was approaching third when I heard the “clink” of the aluminum bat. I didn’t see where the ball was hit, but I knew it was on the ground.
Just as I was tucking in my back foot to slide into third, the third baseman lunged to the left to go for the ball, colliding with me.
My left foot never got tucked under all the way and “pop” went my ankle!
I had sprained my ankle before, so I wasn’t too worried…until I couldn’t put any pressure on it for over an hour. X ray and CT scans showed multiple fractures in the tibia and talus bones which would require surgery.
This didn’t stop me though. I missed the junior high season, but I determined to be ready for little league in 8 weeks! I took batting practice in my walking boot. I even fielded grounders in my boot–everything except run.
When the time came for me to take off the boot, the surgeon had me run down the hallway. I was pain free and released to play! I was so happy and I couldn’t wait to play in my game that very week.
What he never told me was that my entire left leg would atrophy during my time in a cast and a boot. I would be at high risk for injury if I returned to sports too soon without some transition. Without proper recovery and training, that initial injury led to cascading injuries that I dealt with all the way through college football.
And that, my friends, is the story that started me on my path to becoming a physical therapist. That initial injury, and subsequent injuries, gave me the desire to learn everything I could about rehabilitation and the road back to pique performance. That life-altering experience I had at age 14 is what drives me today to get to the root of the problem with each patient I treat. I want them to have the knowledge, hope, and success it took me over 10 years to find.