CSUF athletes have tough road after ACL injuries

In Sports
Titan redshirt junior guard Lauren Chow dribbles down the court, after what could have been a career-ending knee injury last season. Photo by Mark Samala/Daily Titan.

Cal State Fullerton junior gymnast Mika Medina, 20, suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury, better known as the ACL nightmare, during the premiere meet of the 2010 competing year. She was first up on floor when she landed her first pass with a straight leg. Her knee went back. It was a clean tear, the ligament completely torn.

She couldn’t finish her routine, and due to the injury occurring on the first game of the season, she was not able to play for the entire year.

In order to get back into good physical condition to compete again, Medina underwent surgery in March 2010. She participated in physical therapy twice a week, going to rehab from March to November.

Medina could only do upper-body conditioning during the initial couple months of her injury. She went on a strict diet all through summer because she was not able to run. Since November, she has been working out in the training room, trying to get her muscle strength back.

“I missed out on a lot last year. Last year was when my head was so in the game. I was probably at the peak of my ability,” said Medina.

The gymnast aims to focus on floor exercises rather than the balance beam. She said she was excited to get back out there and compete, have fun and feel the thrill of the game again.

“Floor is one of my favorites and probably the one that I’m best at. I know that I’d be needed more in that event, so that’s my focus,” Medina said.

In order for other athletes to avoid suffering from an ACL injury, Medina suggests making sure one’s quads and hamstrings are as strong as possible. Make sure to land with bent knees, as to not hyperextend them.

Lauren Chow, 21, a junior, has been playing basketball from the time she was two, but it was in a game against the University of San Diego on Dec. 7, 2009, that changed the way she played. Chow, who plays guard for the women’s basketball team, went for a contested layup, where the opponent blocked her clean in the upper body but pushed her with an open hand. It threw off Chow’s landing.

She didn’t hear a pop, but knew something was wrong because of the pain. It was a torn ACL. Chow had to wait for the swelling to go down and had surgery Jan. 15 last year. The athlete attended physical therapy on campus from February to September.

After that she began training, which consisted of sprints and various types of agility exercises. By the first week of October, Chow went back on the court for the new season but with limited mobility.

Fast forward to the present, Chow’s knee feels back to normal with the exception of it aching when it’s cold outside, and as of Feb. 3 Chow is the school’s leader in three-pointers. She goes to the weight room regularly to maintain overall strength, but it is a constant process.

“[Feb. 17, 2011] we had a game against UC Santa Barbara. We didn’t win. We lost by three, but throughout the game everything was feeling good. Everyone played well, as a team we felt good,” said Chow of her proudest moment since being back on the court.

Feb. 1, 2009, Karina Flynn was warming up on the balance beam when she tore her ACL. She was doing one of her routines, which she’d done hundreds of times. She’d landed it countless times, but this time her leg decided to give out.

She cussed from the pain and surprise; she recalls sitting there thinking, “This better be a bad sprain.” She was in denial. She couldn’t move her leg; it was stuck in a bent position. Her trainers checked her out and straightened her leg, but then it was stuck straight.

Flynn had surgery and went to physical therapy for a year, but with no success. After 16 years, Flynn had to quit gymnastics; her knee did not heal and she couldn’t compete at the collegiate level.

“It wasn’t getting better, but it wasn’t getting worse, so I kind of just gave up. I had a couple different things going wrong – just my luck,” said Flynn with a rueful chuckle.

Over two years after the injury, she still can’t do too strenuous of a workout. Flynn can’t go past level five on the elliptical. She can’t sit on her heels or bend in certain ways that the average person can.

When the weather is chilly, her knee throbs. Flynn described the sensation as a stretching, tearing discomfort. She said it was comparable to pulling a rubber band until the point right before it snaps.

“I’m still in a lot of pain that I’m not supposed to be in,” Flynn said with the nervous chuckle again. Due to the torn ACL, she has since developed chondromalacia, a grinding underneath her kneecap, and tendonitis.

It would be nice to remain athletic rather than idle, Flynn explained, then added, “Some people can do a really good recovery and some people don’t.”

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