The odd thing about tearing an anterior cruciate ligament is that the overall pain isn’t excruciating, Andy Gordon said. The real pain, he said, comes during rehabilitation.
“Trying to get (his knee) stronger with weights - that was the hard part,” Gordon said. “It really hurt at first.
“I had never had to work hard in athletics. It was probably a good experience because it made me more disciplined.”
Less than a year after reconstructive surgery on his left knee, Gordon is at full strength on the soccer field. The senior is a major factor as University attempts to reel in Greater Spokane League favorites Mead and Gonzaga Prep.
“If you watch him, there’s no hesitancy in his play,” said U-Hi coach Daman Hagerott. “Maybe that’s partly his youth, too.”
Gordon had enough youthful optimism last June to disregard an orthopedic surgeon’s dire warning.
Gordon understood the tone of the message: Yes, you may someday return to soccer, but this type of injury has been known to end careers.
“That stunned me,” Gordon said. “I wasn’t expecting it. But I talked to my parents and said I knew I’d play again.”
Gordon had finished his U-Hi junior season and was playing on an Olympic development team last May when the injury occurred. During a match in western Oregon, Gordon planted his left leg and tried to twist abruptly. He heard a big pop.
If Gordon’s memory serves correctly, he experienced little pain after the initial tear. He has since heard that the region he damaged is relatively free of nerve endings. Also, his cartilage escaped major harm.
Gordon had injured the same knee as a freshman, but doctors found little wrong except fluid buildup. He was too young at the time, they told him, to have surgery.
This time, surgery was the only option. Doctors used one of his tendons to reconstruct the ACL.
Gordon spent five days in the hospital, resting and learning from physical therapists how to rehabilitate.
The worst part was weight training to get back muscle tone.
“But I think I’d go through it again (if another injury occurred),” Gordon said. “It’d be hell, but it would be worth it.”
“What they have to go through, only they can tell you,” Hagerott said of athletes with ACL tears.
While recuperating, Gordon’s weight dropped from 150 pounds to 129. His muscles had atrophied from a lack of exercise.
He has since added nearly 25 pounds yet can tell his leg muscles aren’t as well-defined.
This concerns Gordon because he would like to play soccer at Whitworth College, where Hagerott is the women’s coach.
Gordon, who wears a knee brace, played tentatively early in the season.
“But eventually I had to think of using my stronger leg to compensate,” he said. “Now I think I’m over (fears of another injury). It’s all in your head.”
“(Rehabilitated players) go through a cycle of doubt, wondering if it will happen again or if they can return to their former level,” Hagerott said. “He’s a dominant force on the field again.”
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