Lexington’s Lane returns to the football field after tearing ACL and 9-month rehabilitation
She felt a pop and immediately fell to the floor.
Carolyn Lane, 17, senior captain and attacking midfielder of the Lexington High School women’s football team, had played five minutes against Belmont on October 10, 2020, when she tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the meniscus muscles in his left leg. The ACL is a key ligament that helps stabilize the knee joint, according to the Mayo Clinic.
âIt was non-contact, my foot was planted, and I felt like I was taking a turn, I was 180 and yeah, it just broke,â Lane said. “I think because of COVID I didn’t really have a good preseason and a good warm-up for this game, so I feel like this overall circumstance didn’t help either.”
October 10 was not a pleasant one for Lane. On the same day in 2019, she suffered a minor concussion while playing soccer.
âNo release October 10,â she joked.
She had a hunch that she tore her ACL – her first major injury while playing football since the age of 6.
“It was horrible,” said Alex Caram, eighth-year Lexington women’s soccer head coach and LHS alumnus. âI knew exactly what was going on. When someone has an injury like that when they can’t even really stand, you know it’s not going to be good.
âIt was just devastating because she just got all-in emotionally and physically,â Caram added.
Lane oddly felt like she could still walk on her leg, but was helped off the pitch to the bench before heading to the local hospital.
âWith every bump in the road, I was like, ‘This is terrible.’ It has been the longest drive of my life, âLane said.
Unexpectedly, she was not rushed into surgery to repair her torn muscles. Prior to that, she had two months of physiotherapy, three days a week, to strengthen her quadriceps muscles to aid her recovery process, she said.
During winter recess in December 2020, Lane underwent successful surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital in Waltham. Surgeons took a piece of her hamstring tendon that runs down the back of her thigh, called a graft, and used it in place of her torn ACL ligament, she said.
âA few teammates came to visit meâ¦ I had a friend crochet her Christmas presents for her parents next to me and we were just watching a show. It was really helpful. It probably helped me get through the mess.
Then came nine months of long and hard work, demanding and exhausting both physically and mentally.
âIt was probably the most difficult moment after the operation because I went from being such a good athlete to loving being able to just lie in my bed. It was a shock, definitely, âLane said.
For three months after the surgery, Lane again underwent physical therapy, three times a week. She started out by walking and moving her kneecap, which she said was tricky. She had to learn to walk again because her mechanics were different.
Her initial physical therapy was individual, but she felt too isolated and alone. So, she found Move Strong Physical Therapy in Hudson, where Julie Hubbard, an orthopedic physical therapist, ran a twice-weekly program where Lane worked with other girls who also rehabilitated ACL injuries. She was there six months.
âIt was a community in itself where girls my age and Julie, who had an ACL tear, all knew what I was going through. So that helped. in fact i was looking forward to it [physical therapy] much more.”
While progressing, she still suffered setbacks. âIt wasn’t like black and white. It was not very obvious. I just had certain goals in mind that I wouldn’t necessarily achieve.
With an estimated nine months to recover from her ACL injury after surgery, she had certain goals that she wanted to achieve at times, such as squatting at a specific weight. Would she ever come back to where she was, she wondered?
âIt was nice to have this group of girls around me and Julie herself was so supportive and she is so educated that she really reassured me that everyone’s process is different and that the transplant you get is change everything. “
It wasn’t until recently that Lane felt she had gained momentum, which is much later than she might have thought. Physically, she feels normal, with persistent pain in the hamstring area where the graft was taken.
In late August, for the first time since October 10, 2020, and after nearly nine months of physiotherapy, Lane began playing contact football at Lexington practices.
âIt was really good not having to watch practice. It gave me a little taste of how the entire next season is going to play out. It really turned me on.
Caram allows Lane to return to the football pitch as neither wants to undo all of Lane’s progress since last fall.
âAs someone who is not used to being on the bench, what does success look like after 10 minutes on the pitch? How are you going to be a good captain? How are you going to be a good teammate when you’re not on the pitchâ¦ I think that’s going to be the key to her happiness, and that’s what I’m focusing on.
A starter since her first season who has typically played the full 80-minute game, Lane has averaged 15-20 minutes per half in Lexington’s first three games of the season: a 1-1 draw against Stoneham, a 1-0 loss at Concord-Carlisle and a 5-1 victory at Wakefield.
Against the Warriors on September 14, Lane scored his first goal since his ACL injury and extended Lexington’s lead to 3-1 in the second half. While thinking about her ACL while playing and wearing a protective brace, she fully embraced the moment on Tuesday night.
âIt was really good,â Lane said with a beaming smile. âIt was a weight that was taken off my shoulder. I was like, ‘Finally.’ â
Caram was happy for Lane. âI know she was in the right place and I know it means a lot to her to reach these milestones when she comes back. She’s used to scoring quite a few goals for us so hopefully this will be the first in a long streak.
His injury put what Lane missed out on playing football into perspective. It wasn’t his personal victories like scoring goals or a good touch of the ball, but rather raising his teammates and being with them on the pitch. She’s proud of how far she has come since October 10, 2020, but she’s not thinking about herself.
âI’m excited about the energy of the team and winning games again,â Lane said. âIt’s cheesy, but we’re all really close. It’s like a small family.
Stacey Leissing is a sports reporter for the Lexington Minuteman and can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @stacey_writes.