We receive a lot of calls and online inquiries from parents of high school athletes who have just torn an ACL. We love our kids more than anything, so I imagine many of these calls come from parents who have spent the night on Google, Facebook, and Instagram trying to figure out what’s best for their son or daughter after such a traumatic injury.
When I sat down to write this article, it was with those parents in mind. I intended to share the most important things I thought a high school athlete should know after tearing an ACL. My list of “things” grew and grew, mostly focused on technical information. Around “thing” number 20… I had a realization.
I needed to put myself in these parents’ shoes. I tried to envision how I would feel, what I would want my (now 19 month old) daughter to know within the first 24 hours of tearing an ACL.
I thought deeply about it and realized… none of this stuff on my list matters.
At least not right now.
The technical side of ACL recovery can wait (and I will write that article some day). Right now, my daughter needs to be supported.
When I closed my eyes and imagined a day in which my own daughter tore her ACL, here’s the themes I hope would ring through to her over those first 24 hours.
Depending on the overall tone of these conversations and how my daughter is processing the injury, we may not cover all of this ground within 24 hours, but over the first week of her post-injury life.
I’d want to establish these themes first and make sure they are front and center throughout the recovery process. She needs to know she has my unrelenting support as a parent, that it’s normal to feel badly about this type of injury, and she will get through this.
1. It’s OK to feel badly for yourself. I know how hard you’ve worked and much this sport means to you. I am heartbroken for you.
2. No matter what, I’m here for you. I will support you in any way possible and I am here to listen.
3. Take as much time as you need to process the injury.
4. You will be ok… you will get through this, and I’ll be by your side the entire way.
As my daughter continues to process the injury, I would do my best to gauge where she’s at mentally. Is she still focused on the injury itself, or has she opened a window to talk about the recovery process? When I feel a window has been opened to talk about the recovery process, I’d want her to know the following.
5. Through your life, you’ll realize life isn’t about what happens to you, but how you respond to it. This is one of those moments.
6. Recovering from an ACL injury involves the same principles that made you such a great athlete. You’ll apply the same hard work, discipline, focus, and mental fortitude to get back to full health.
7. At some point, you’ll decide whether or not you want dedicate the same energy you put into your sport into this recovery. If you choose to, you can come back from this, bigger, faster, stronger (and smarter too).
The more technical article will come some day (I’ve still got my list of 20+ items). At least for me, it is my natural instinct as a parent to help my daughter push through tough moments in life (in my case, at 19 months, it’s telling my daughter “it’s ok, not a big deal” right after she falls down). I suppose this is why I jumped so quickly to technical information in my initial approach.
For now, though, in these first 1-7 days after my daughter is injured, I just want her to know she’s supported, and that at the end of the day, it’s her choice what perspective she’ll have on the recovery process. Once she arrives at the conclusion that she’s ready to put her full mental and physical energy on the recovery process, the technical information will be waiting… and we will get to work.
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