Updated: Nov 9
A View From the Other Side: How Knee Surgery Changed My Professional Perspective (Part 3 of 3) Becky Zwicker, MPH Clinical Research Manager, Division of Sports Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital
The Female Athlete “Curse” Growing up as a female soccer player, I was aware of my increased risk of sustaining a ligament injury compared to my male counterparts, but I never let the fear of injury convince me to walk away from the game. The hours of training, travel, and competition that led up to my years as a high school athlete were physically and emotionally rewarding. These enjoyable memories of my adolescence exposed me to a healthy balance of excitement and stress while teaching me how to build trusting relationships with coaches and teammates.
When I first ruptured my ACL during a soccer tournament leading into sophomore year, I was thankful to have enough time for reconstruction surgery and rehabilitation to return to soccer for my junior and senior years. However, a re-tear of my reconstructed ACL during pre-season going into my senior year ended my high school athletic career early and prevented me from pursuing a collegiate team.
Love the Work You Do My history of ACL injuries and background in public health drove me towards professional opportunities in sports medicine, specifically injury prevention. While searching for a career in this field, I came across The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention and my interest in epidemiology drew me towards their efforts to understand injury trends, specific to gender, age, or sport, while developing methods for injury prevention. Additionally, an article about Dr. Martha Murray’s innovative Bridge-Enhanced ACL Repair (BEAR) technique sparked my interest and I quickly became captivated by the research efforts of both The Micheli Center and the Division of Sports Medicine.
Working with the research team for the Division of Sports Medicine and alongside the health professionals at The Micheli Center has been a rewarding experience and has allowed me to incorporate my passion for sports and injury prevention into a fulfilling career. Suffering from two debilitating injuries inspires me to contribute to the constantly evolving field of Sports Medicine research in hopes to help young athletes avoid season ending injuries while also optimizing their potential for elite performance.
Same Injury, Different Mindset Last year, I suffered another ACL rupture, this time in my other knee. Although I was not training with a team or pressured to return to a sport, suffering a significant injury as a working professional comes with its own set of physical and mental challenges. However, my involvement with the research team and exposure to the advanced skillsets of the staff at The Micheli Center provided me with the tools to be a much more compliant patient this time around.
There is often pressure to return to your sport or daily activities, but it’s important to understand the complexity of the procedure and that healing takes time. Recognizing this, I was able to give my body enough time to recover and gain strength; in addition to Dr. Murray’s frequent reminders to “protect her work.”
I also finally acknowledged the importance of the basics. When I first started physical therapy, I wanted to jump right into my pre-injury strength training regimen while skipping over the quad sets and heel slides. However, accepting and performing basic movements (ex: quadriceps contractions) prior to progressing to more advanced movements (ex: squats) led to surprising results at my 6 month follow-up; my operative knee out performed my non-operative knee in strength measurements.
My time as a researcher with the Division of Sports Medicine and The Micheli Center allowed me to approach my rehabilitation journey realistically and I had a greater respect for the process by understanding the science behind it. I am even more inspired to continue to contribute to this field of knowledge and to share our findings with our patients and clients to further enhance their athletic experiences.