How a Cheerleading Injury Changes Everything

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I have been an all-star cheerleader for 10 years. Cheerleading literally is my life. I think of myself as a very dedicated and hardworking athlete and I love the challenge that cheerleading has provided me throughout the years. I have an Instagram account to serve as a memory and timeline of my journey to The Cheerleading Worlds; my dream destination! When I finally got my full about 2-3 seasons ago, I was excited to clean it up, learn a few specialty passes and try out for my chance to make a Worlds team.

TRYOUTS

I attended tryouts in late May. Boy was I nervous! Day 1 went by and I did extremely well! I had even attempted a new skill! Day 2 came along and I was not as nervous. I was ready to show why I deserved to be on a Worlds team. There was about 30 minutes left in tryouts until I would find out if all my hard work would pay off. I would find out if I would be called back for a Worlds team! The team who attended World’s every year, and even medaled a few times! We had to throw running fulls before our water break. I didn’t really need to think about throwing a full and was able to just let it flow.

I tumbled down the panel and the athlete next to me accidentally fell over and landed on my panel. While mid-air in my full, I heard faint sounds of panic. I glanced down and saw an athlete laying under me. My first instinct was to undercut myself and avoid hitting her. I thought everything would be okay until I landed a half instead and heard a faint popping noise in my right knee. I immediately knew something was wrong and I fell to the ground, yelling in pain. My future coaches ran to my side to see what was wrong. I remember things like my mom coming in and having to be carried to the car.

THE INJURY

We went to the emergency room where after an x-ray, I was told my knee was sprained. I was given crutches, a knee brace, and told to stay off my knee. Soon after I had an appointment to go and see my primary doctor who after only a few minutes of looking at my knee, told me I should go and see an orthopedic doctor. I went to the orthopedic doctor a few days later. After 2-3 minutes of examining my knee, I was told I might have damaged my anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. I of course didn’t want to think that could have possibly been the case. But regardless of what I thought, she gave my this extremely heavy brace. (I got the name “Robocop” at school to go along with it).

I was scheduled for an MRI. After about 1 month of waiting for my appointment, I had my MRI. After about 2-3 weeks of hoping and praying for good results, I was told that I had completely tore my ACL and had a tear in my Lateral Meniscus. I was out for the season and would need knee surgery. The wait time for surgery was about another month.

I started physical therapy to prevent scar tissue from forming. This therapy consisted of me riding on a stationary bike for about 10-15 minutes every visit, stretching my knee, and electric stimulation (or Stem). This was the most mentally exhausting time period for me. As I stated before, cheerleading is literally my life. I felt as though my hard work had gone down the drain. I later found out during team reveals that I had made the Worlds team. My dream team!

I would’ve attended Worlds this year for the first time. I had a chance of earning a medal and ring. All my friends were moving on. They were starting summer training and getting ready for the season. All while I sat injured at home. I felt bad because I feel as though this type of injury is a major setback. It seemed as though I was running out of time to achieve my dream of medaling at Worlds and had missed my first opportunity. I had my surgery in early September, which was nearly 5 months after my injury at tryouts.

SURGERY AND PHYSICAL THERAPY

My 3 hour surgery came and went successfully. My doctor would use my hamstring to build a new ACL and repair my Lateral Meniscus. Now was the hardest part of the process; getting better. I was on bed-rest for about 2 weeks after my surgery. After my follow-up appointment, I was given the thumbs-up to start physical therapy by my doctor. Therapy started and I could barely bend my knee 15 degrees without having pain. I knew then I had a lot of work to do if I wanted to get back on the “Big Blue”. First I started off with only simple exercises that included just lifting my leg up and down, building up my calf muscle and making my quad muscle strong again. I had a set of exercises I did at therapy and I had a set I did at home every morning and night. I have to do these exercises until I stop physical therapy.

The first few weeks were extremely hard. I was balancing coming home from school and going immediately to physical therapy twice per week. Each therapy session left me with a little pain. 6 weeks after surgery I was able to get off my crutches. I gradually got my extension and flexion in my knee up to parr with a few more degrees to go. Since then, I have gotten to the point where I am now able to do squats, and bend my knee to a reasonable degree.

From the beginning when I first found out about my injury, I knew that it would not be easy. Many people have told me that maybe I should just stop cheerleading. I admit, there are times when I agreed. But I know this is not an option. It’s like telling me not to breathe. I have been doing this sport for so many years. Having put in so much blood, sweat, and tears into it I felt this injury wasn’t enough to stop me. I am willing to give up everything I have. Push myself to the limits until my hard work pays off. Just going to Worlds and competing is not enough. I must have a Worlds ring on my finger. I have worked too hard to settle for anything less.

My family, friends, and even Instagram followers play such a big part in motivating me to continue to push myself and better myself until I am able to get back on the mat! So until then, I don’t plan on letting anything stop me. My journey hasn’t ended, I have just taken a detour to the same destination. Medaling at Cheerleading Worlds!

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Christen Carpenter

Christen is a all-star cheerleader from Maryland and has been cheering since 2007. Her favorite thing about cheerleading is the excitement of performing her routines in front of judges and the crowd. She values the time and practice her and her team have spent perfecting their routines to make them as good as possible.

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