Welcome to Behind the G! This is a Georgia Way platform that shares student-athlete stories, hobbies, and what is important to them. To the world, student-athletes are viewed by their outcomes in their sports, but they are so much more than that. Our goal is to share with the world in their own words who they are as people, and the numerous ways they represent the G on and off the field.
When starting to write about a comeback journey, I have trouble figuring out where to start. From 2 knee surgeries, 1 elbow surgery, and every pulled hamstring or strained ankle in between, my journey has been like no other. With that being said, I wouldn’t go back and change anything even if I could, which may seem odd to hear! After every battle to return to play the sport I love, I’ve consistently found my love for the game again every single time. The saying “everything happens for a reason” is a concept I believe in 100% of the time, even when times are tough.
My first comeback started in March 2017 during my senior year of highschool. My dream of being a collegiate soccer player was so close and I could barely wait any longer to enroll into my first college class at UGA, only 2 weeks after graduation. During my first high school soccer scrimmage of the spring, no tackle or fall could explain this weird clicking sound my right knee began to make while I played. My highschool’s athletic trainer even checked if I had done anything to my ACL (as a soccer player, you are automatically paranoid whenever it comes to your knees hurting), but nothing seemed wrong. But, I knew deep down something was definitely wrong. The following Thursday, I asked my athletic trainer to set up an appointment with our team doctor. Friday, the doctor sent me to get an MRI. Monday, I found out I had chips of cartilage floating around in my knee. Tuesday, surgery. Yes, just like that. I didn’t even have time to process what was about to happen to me! The 4-6 month journey to a healthy me began, ruining my start to my freshman year of college.
I worked hard with my doctor and physical therapist at home, and transitioned as well as I could to collegiate athletics with an automatic sidelined injury. Thankfully, with the help of my wonderful athletic trainer here at UGA and the rest of the medical staff, I was able to play in some of the games freshman year! I struggled without being able to use soccer as a way to establish myself in the beginning of college, however, I quickly learned I was more than my sport and could make friends with my teammates, even though I was not able to contribute on the soccer field yet. I also realized how much soccer meant to me and my appreciation for basic motor skills, such as walking, grew tremendously throughout my rehab process. Lucky for me, my athletic trainer must have missed me so much that fast forward to January 2019, I am back in the rehab room.
I think this injury might be the weirdest to ever occur to any soccer players! I slipped in the wet grass during a normal Wednesday spring practice and put my arm out to help break my fall. It was completely straight when I was falling, in turn, crunching so loud the whole team could hear it no matter where anyone was standing on the field! Usually, dislocating elbows heal in a matter of weeks after being put back in place, however, it wasn’t as simple as that in my case (just my luck right?!). Again, I am told a piece of bone chipped off, so I knew what needed to be done, surgery once again! This injury was only slotted to be 2-3 months time, however, it did not make sitting out any easier for me.
The most frustrating part of this injury was that my legs were fully functioning and I still wasn’t allowed to run for the first 6 weeks! During the same time, I had 4 other teammates that underwent surgery during the year, so we were all in it together. We probably bothered our athletic trainer so much with the classic “what can I do today” or “can I at least pass the ball?!” type questions. Again, she is a rockstar and was able to manage our eagerness to get out and play again, even when some of our wants were shut down for the time being.
Sooner than later, I made my comeback just as strong as I was before! My family, friends, coaches, and medical staff were so helpful in their ability to believe in me and support me during some of the lowest points in my life; I couldn’t have done it without them! Soccer will always have a special place in my heart, including the highs and the lows of my career. As I wrap up my story, I’ll leave Dawgnation with a quote that I have shared with any friend of mine who has been going through any type of adversity: “Tough times don’t last, tough PEOPLE do.”
Ashley Andersen – UGA Soccer