Bounce back Bulldog!

Injures. The overlooked part of sports, all the excitement, fun, praise and reward turned upside down. The dark, long, and lonely path of recovery. Being an athlete is an integral part of so many students’ identities. They truly don’t know who they are without their sport. This situation is a current reality for senior girls’ basketball player Malia Samuels. Samuels tore her ACL and meniscus in a tournament this past July, had surgery at the end of August and is now recovering to get back to full strength.

 It is common for athletes to downplay injuries at first with the typical “I’m fine!” But many times, this is not the case. Samuels reflects on the game of her injury 

“This was my first serious injury, so I tried to go back in the game. When you haven’t been injured like that you just think you are lowkey invincible.” Although the initial shock of the injury passed, Samuels reflected on how she is affected day-to-day. “It has made me less motivated in school… I [always looked] forward to having basketball at the end of the day, but now it’s all school, all physical therapy, all going to the doctors, so it’s kind of discouraging.” She has spent years in the gym training for basketball, and is continuing her career at the collegiate level at University of Southern California. So, this injury is a large set back ahead of her senior season at Garfield and freshman season at USC.

 But with all her new free time, she is “Just trying to find new hobbies.” Injuries can provide the perfect time for athletes who have been consumed by their sport to find new things they are interested in, and figure out who they are without sports.

 As Samuels does this, she stays focused on physical therapy each day to strengthen her knee. “A lot of leg lifts, calf raises, balancing on one leg. I am still learning how to walk again; I am still not fully back to walking,” she said.

“The most important thing for me is getting on the bike every day, to get the range of motion back,” she adds. Physical therapy is a long and relentless process. Day by day, injured athletes work to try and see progress. Weeks filled with doubt of not coming back the same or not seeing improvement as soon as they want can be very tough, but is rewarding in the end.

 Another very important part of injury recovery is the support the athlete receives. “I have felt supported, but there are obviously moments where [I] feel alone,” Samuels said. Knowing they have people in their corner can help athletes feel less alone and more encouraged to work towards recovery.

 When Samuels was asked what she has missed the most, she said, “Just the adrenaline of basketball, it is hard to recreate that.”