There are roughly one hundred thousand to two hundred thousand Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears a year, according to Beaumont Health, and they are becoming one of the most common high school sports injuries. For Karalyn Tool, her second to last year of soccer was left behind on the field simply because of a rough hit.
Karalyn Tool’s life has been changed by tearing two ligaments and cartilage. Tool is used to taking hits playing center defense, but one has changed her life for months. She hadn’t seen the hit, of course, but her goalie told her how it had happened. Tool was running up to get the ball when a player for the other team kicked the side of her knee, causing her to fall down when it all tore. “I heard a pop and I experienced the most pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life. I was on the ground, in a ball, and I couldn’t move because of how badly it hurt,” she explained. At the time, she just thought her knee had been popped out, completely unaware that her ACL and MCL had torn, along with her meniscus. It wasn’t until they went to an orthopedic surgeon that they figured out what had really happened. Tool said, “I thought I’d just popped out my knee, because I swear I saw it just go opposite directions.” At the time, all she could think about was the pain, saying, “at the time I was kinda covering my face because I didn’t want people to see me. Everyone was surrounding me, and when I looked up I could see a circle of people around me.” Tool was thankful for her teammates, who reminded her to “focus on her breathing” while she was hyperventilating. Tool’s been playing soccer since the age of eight, and has never dealt with anything like this. “I was so frustrated because I’ve never been taken out of a game for an injury. I was tripped earlier in the game, messing up my other knee and spraining a ligament in my shoulder,” the player explained.
Both of Tool’s parents work in the medical field, so she knows a decent amount about the healing process, saying, “tearing your ACL at my age isn’t as bad because I’ll be fine by senior year. The doctors aren’t worried about me tearing it again, since the chance is so low.” With tearing her meniscus, Tool has to wait for the cartilage to heal in order to get the surgery, since she isn’t able to extend her leg yet. Once the surgery is complete, she will be allowed to put weight on her leg, but she has to stay home for about a week, which means working the procedure around school. After the surgery, Tool’s recovery will last four to nine months, depending on the physical therapy.
Adjusting to crutches for Tool was a challenge; she explained that, “the first few times I used them was so tiring. My palms hurt so much that I had to put towels on the handles.” For the athlete, even lifting her leg was painful. As an independent person, Tool doesn’t enjoy asking people to do things for her that she can do herself, so being on crutches restricted her and left her frustrated. “You kind of end up overthinking everything, like if someone will open the front door for you. I don’t even leave class early because I don’t want people looking at me,” Tool admitted. For the first few days of being on crutches, she had to take breaks while she walked, saying, “I never realized how far the walk was from the drop-off to go into school, and then there to the elevator.” The first few days left Tool frustrated, and she expressed that, “it wasn’t getting better faster, even though it was getting better faster when you think about it.”
The ACL tear didn’t scare away the longtime soccer player, and she wants to continue her season senior year. The avid skier was upset that her soccer season this year would be out of the question. “I think I’ll go back to soccer since I just have a year left, but the fact that I play center defense is always a risk for injury, it’s a very contact position,” Tool said. “I always get in really bad falls, but I’m usually fine. Maybe for my last year I’ll take it a bit easier and won’t use my body as much.” Tool knows the risks of playing soccer, but she’s enjoyed it since she was a little kid. She hopes to make her last year the best and push past her injury once the time comes.
This story was originally published on Etched in Stone on October 11, 2018.