Injured athletes, attempting to return to their sport, show a tremendous amount of physical and mental strength by not only battling through the pain of the recovery process but also, by facing the newfound anxiety of their sport. Last year, University of Dallas women’s soccer player Bridgette Alpar, a senior business major, suffered an ACL and meniscus tear but continued to join her team in this year’s soccer season with even more presence on the field than before.
After she took a tour of the campus as a prospective student, she realized that the Catholic presence, proximity to Dallas and the unique education that UD offers made it the only choice for her.
On her tour, Alpar commented, “The coach and players were really nice on the visit and I knew I would be able to continue soccer in a great atmosphere.”
During Alpar’s recovery, this same impression of the camaraderie between the players proved to be stronger than perceived, as they showered Alpar with flowers, cards and genuine felicity at every obstacle Alpar overcame.
Her injury occurred during a game in the spring of her sophomore year when she stretched her leg out to reach the ball and an opposing player ran through her leg. This abruption caused her knee to pop out of its socket.
Alpar recounted, “I heard a loud pop so I was really scared and couldn’t play for a week.”
While most would shy away from the sport after such a shocking injury, Alpar quickly returned to the field without fear for her usual practice. During practice she received her second injury that rendered her unable to play soccer for 11 months. The first injury had stretched her ACL so that, when she landed after a jump, it completely tore.
Alpar shared, “I had to jump and, when I landed, my knee just buckled and completely went inwards but my coach was very good at calming me down.”
As another testament to Alpar’s ability to carry on, she postponed surgery for a couple of weeks so that she could attend her planned trip to Florida with her family. After her vacation, she underwent surgery and started her recovery process with the support of UD trainers, her coach, teammates and her family. Alexandra Stinson, the head women’s soccer coach, was also happy to see the rallying support from the team.
Stinson said, “Regardless of who gets injured, it is always great to see players step up and fill an important role, and to see them support their teammate during a tough time.”
Alpar’s recovery was a three part task which slowly got her back on her feet after nine months. In the first three months, Alpar could not bear any weight on her injured leg. After playing soccer since she was three, having to spend more than a month training to just be able to bend her knee again was debilitating.
Nevertheless, the encouragement and reassurance from everyone helped Alpar come back to the field in her senior year, although there were still ways to go on regaining the confidence in her playing style.
On the field, Alpar said: “The spring season helped me ease back into it but going into hard tackles is really scary. I’m still scared to jump because that’s how it happened.”
Outside of the field, anxiety lingered as she shared: “When you’re walking on uneven ground your legs buckle anyways. Now every time they buckle I think I hurt myself but it’s not true.”
Gratefully, Alpar has come back in full force and is playing more competitively than before. She has been a starting player and has even attempted many shots against her opponents. When she is not on the field, she is one of the loudest supporters from the bench to her teammates.
Stinson remarks, “When a student-athlete tears their ACL, it can be both mentally and physically challenging. Despite the challenges, Bridgette persevered and was dedicated to rehabbing her knee to come back just as strong as she was before.”
To all recovering athletes, Alpar urges them to accept the injury and allow it to realize opportunities and perspectives that you would otherwise not be able to realize. She can now support others in her life and her team by knowing what it feels like to struggle with such an immobilizing injury.
She encourages, “I’m a better player now than before I hurt myself so I think realizing that it happened and you can’t change it. If you change your mentality to ‘I can get through it! I’m strong enough to get through it!’ It’ll be a lot better for your recovery.”