Kyle Gardner, Editor:
Too often in the world of athletics an athlete’s development is judged purely by their success in or on their respective field, court, rink or lane. While statistical success may create the forefront of the portrait of an athlete, it’s the developments and the skill sets which go un-captured by the box score that provide the vibrant detail of each individual portraits own unique background. Adversity, fear and doubt become the athlete’s true opponent; hope, confidence and determination, their teammates. As we continue to study the portrait of today’s athlete, it becomes clear that those seemingly, minute details that once made up the portrait’s backdrop begin to take shape and paint the forefront of the real successes and developments earned through athletic careers.
We recently had the opportunity to learn of one athlete’s perseverance through the face of adversity and the success she discovered throughout her journey. Abby Lord is a 2014 graduate of nearby Conestoga High School where she was a standout player for their Girls Varsity Lacrosse Team. In the fall of 2014, Abby entered the University of Cincinnati as a preferred recruit of their NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Program; excited to continue her athletic success at the highest level.
From the day Abby started to play sports in 3rd grade up until college, she was very lucky with injuries. Abby never had an injury that held her out for more than a game or two. When she got to college, luck was not on her side. In Abby’s freshman year of college (March 2015), she tore her left ACL at lacrosse practice midway through her first collegiate lacrosse season. Then, after many months of rehab, she was cleared and was able to play by the second half of her sophomore season; nearly a full year after the initial injury.
During the fall of Abby’s junior year (September of 2016), she partially tore her lateral meniscus running in the sand pit, which ended up needing surgery. When the doctors went in to repair the meniscus they realized there was no cartilage left on the lateral femoral condyle. That was when the doctor declared Abby medically disqualified so she was unable to play for the remainder of her junior year. During that same year the cartilage specialist who was working on Abby’s femoral condyle found that something had been done wrong with first ACL reconstruction and informed her that he was going to have to revise the work previously done on her ACL along with continuing to work on her cartilage situation.
In May of Abby’s junior year a doctor at the University of Penn scoped her knee to take a biopsy of her cells so that they could be sent to Boston where they would grow millions of them in a lab so that she could do the next ACL surgery. Abby underwent her final surgery this past July: a very long and intensive surgery that involved a revised ACL, a meniscus transplant, and articular cartilage repair. The doctors estimate that the recovery will take anywhere from 9 months to a full year until she will be able to be an athlete again; just in time to miss all of her senior season.
Throughout the rehab process there were many hardships that Abby encountered, physically. However, the hardest part was the wait to be cleared; staying positive and trying to keep her mental state in the right direction.
With my injury today, my mentality is a lot different. I am not focused on getting back to the lacrosse field, and I’m not focused on making sure my lacrosse game is back to where it was. Today, I am focused on getting back to walking, biking, working out without any pain. I am taking my time with my recovery and having patience with the long recovery. The hardest part was accepting that in some ways, my athletic career was taken from me. It may sound crazy, but it’s almost as if it was a death. Something that you love so much and has become a part of you is being taken from you without your control. It’s something that I have been doing since I was 7 and I was born to do. Lacrosse was one thing, but running and working out was another. I am one that uses working out, running, playing lacrosse as a stress reliever. It’s still difficult to imagine my life without it.”
There have been many people that have helped and inspired Abby throughout the difficult journey. The one person that Abby was inspired the most by was the daughter of a family friend who died last year at the age of 3 after being diagnosed with brain cancer 9 months prior. “I think about her a lot; she was never given many opportunities that many of us take for granted with nothing that she could do about it,” Lord stated. “When I find myself thinking that my life is hard, I think of Emma and it makes me extremely blessed with every opportunity that I have had and all the opportunities that I will have ahead of me.”
Abby’s best advice for fellow student athletes who face adversity is to be “tough” and to be “positive.” These are two things that Abby told herself every day since her first injury. Being an athlete teaches you to be tough and get through the hard workouts so that you can be better; the same applies to being injured. Be tough through rehab, through the hard days, and you will get better.
The idea of remaining positive is something that I have come to believe in the most. As a lifelong athlete, I never knew what it was like to sit on the sidelines, but it was something that I was forced to figure out and accept. It was hard and it remains hard to sit through practices and games, but what I learned is that with a positive attitude, I can still help my team to be successful. Being injured meant that I couldn’t help, physically, so I needed to discover other ways in which I could help my team. I found that keeping a positive attitude not only helped my teammates and coaches remain positive when facing obstacles on the field, but it also helped me to keep my spirit and love for the game more than I could have ever imagined.”
Abby’s goal is to graduate in May of 2018 and plans to take some time away while visiting family in London. Her long-term goal is to find a career in the medical device sales industry, selling the cartilage patch she has in her knee to orthopedics around the country.