Athlete’s Worst Nightmare

Whether you call it earning an income or gettin’ guap [right now], money is the motive in this world. Considering this, imagine if your salary depended solely on your body’s physical performance…No really, take a second and imagine… instead of working 9-5’s in a cubicle, you’d be working 6-6’s in the weight room, on the track, or in the pool.

That’s the life of a professional athlete. Whether it’s an athlete of the caliber of LeBron James or a fourth division footballer plying his trade on a muddied pitch in East Yorkshire, it’s not their head, but rather their shoulders, knees and toes that earn them that ever-important paycheck. And the only variable that can take away from an athlete earning their wages (barring any cases of extreme mental instability a la Ricky Williams circa 2004) is an injury.

I’m, by no means, a professional athlete, but I’ve been dealt an injury in my day – a torn left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to be exact. So, since I’ve done that whole surgery + rehab + wondering if my knee will ever work the same again, I’m going to attempt to illustrate what Eugeneia McPherson has gone through since she tore her ACL in November.

McPherson isn’t one of the professional athletes I alluded to earlier, but she’s a Division I college basketball player who has seen her sport of choice award her opportunities that most will never experience. So, picking up an injury that has the ability to significantly alter her life is probably incredibly daunting. I’m not in any way saying that she won’t be back in seven months, ready to step back onto the hardwood; I’m simply stating that ACL tears pack a mean punch. And when I say punch, I’m talking Juan Manuel Marquez’s right hook to Manny Pacquiao’s jaw kind of punch…Reflect on that for a second

As we move forward, try and forget the fact that Adrian ‘I could probably play football without ligaments in each of my knees’ Peterson came back from his ACL tear in a manner that has most doctors questioning whether or not he’s human – because mere mortals like myself need 6-8 months to fully recover.

The months after lying on that operating table can be a bit grueling, sometimes more mentally than physically. Although Eugeneia is probably in the training room every morning preparing for hours filled with rehab, stretching and ice, her days also include lingering questions about her athletic future. The only reason I say that is because I had those same questions running through my mind.

‘Will my knee ever be the same? …Will I ever be the same?’

Those were the two queries that ran through my mind the most.

You’d have to ask Eugeneia yourself, but I’d bet a pretty penny that she’s asked herself those two questions more than once.

There’s no doubt that by being a Division I athlete, she has immense confidence in her physical ability, whether it’s on the court or recovering from injury; but there’s always a sliver of uncertainty. I mean, it never crosses your mind that you just may tear your ACL, so just because you don’t anticipate that your rehab might go awry doesn’t mean that it won’t, in fact, happen.

Despite all of the doubts, at the end of the day, all you can do is move forward. I, along with anyone else who has gone through a serious injury, has learned that.

So, as Eugeneia erases from her mind that popping sound in her knee that signaled the end of her season, we’ll be watching as Shenneika Smith and Nadirah McKenith ride the ship for the rest of the year without the last member of Joe Tartamella’s Big 3.

Although Eugeneia won’t be walking off into the sunset with the other two members of the Big 3 come spring time, she’ll be hard at work so she has a chance to grace the court of Carnesecca Arena in a year’s time.

Whether or not she returns via medical redshirt next season, here’s to the hope that Eugeneia McPherson makes a full recovery.