Every athlete’s worst nightmare is undergoing the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament tear. For varsity women’s soccer member, Kristina De Andrade, it was no different.

De Andrade has played soccer since the age of seven, and roughly four years ago, she got the unfortunate news that she had torn her ACL. She describes the tearing of her ACL as a “two-week process.” De Andrade was playing in a co-ed league at the Hershey Centre and says that “[the] first game I was going into a tackle and I had a knee on knee collision with another guy. [I] didn’t think anything of it, [but] my knee was sore for the rest of the week. The following week, I went to go play again and I tried to avoid a tackle so a girl slid, I jumped over her foot and as soon as I landed my knee just gave out.” De Andrade waited about three years before receiving the surgery because of a job opportunity that presented itself. Her first time returning to the pitch was last January with the UTM varsity women’s indoor soccer team.

The ACL is a ligament that runs diagonally inside of the knee. It connects the femur to the tibia and helps with the rotational movement of the knee, such as pivoting in basketball or soccer. An ACL tear is most common in sports with a high amount of rotational or twisting movements, like soccer, basketball, baseball, and football.

De Andrade explains that “the road to recovery is a struggle because your other muscles aren’t where they need to be.” The road to recovery is long, frustrating, and very tiresome. You will find yourself going through so many different emotions, and at times you will feel hopeless, and as if you will never be able to return to your sport again.” She explains the importance of going to physiotherapy, as well as doing exercises on your own time at home to ensure a successful recovery so that you can return to your sport.

She also goes on to discuss the mental aspect of tearing your ACL, and explains that “[there are] up and down battles for sure. It’s definitely depressing… especially going to watch your team play and you can’t play, being on the bench.”

Tearing your ACL is a long and difficult process, but with the right support system and training, you can get back to the player you once were. De Andrade closes off with some advice to fellow athletes undergoing a serious injury like hers—“it will get better. It’ll take time but you’ll get there through training and physio and practice. You just have to be determined and over time you’ll get there.” Staying positive and really focusing your attention on strengthening your leg will help the recovery go more smoothly.

De Andrade will return to the outdoor season for the first time in four years this September. She explains that a personal goal of hers is to score goals for her team and work on becoming the player she used to be. While she does not feel that playing without her custom ACL knee brace is the right move for her at this time, she definitely wants to strive towards that in the future.