Returning from injury is always a gruelling physical and mental process. For Iesha de Andrade, Canberra Olympic’s all-action midfielder, that process has been a long and arduous one, but one that has finally come to fruition.
In a match against Tuggeranong United in late May last season, De Andrade went to shield the ball. In doing so her knee happened to push out and then pull back in again. The result of the injury was confirmed to be a torn ACL, torn Medial Meniscus, torn Lateral Meniscus and a fracture.
Ten days later she undertook the surgery and immediately was on the road to recovery which would last a year.
Post-surgery Iesha spent seven weeks in a leg long brace and then onto crutches. During this process her doctors would slowly start testing the knee, getting her to move it for the first time. It is here we begin to see where the psychological aspect of the recovery is prevalent.
“I wanted to pass out due to the pain once I felt it, it was not localised pain it was the entire knee,” De Andrade explained. “Every pop I felt I would panic it was more of a mental struggle than a physical one. I felt I would push back the recovery if I made one wrong move.”
No one remembers the process of being able to walk for the first time unless you have had an injury.
“I was really scared to walk because you lose the muscle in the leg, I am always in a strong stance and my legs are my shield,” De Andrade revealed.
“I felt like I had a toothpick for a leg, with the crutches I felt like it couldn’t take my weight at first. Walking for the first time without crutches felt like I was learning how to walk again. You don’t think about the way you walk before an injury like this, then suddenly you are thinking about how to do the motions.
“Once I began to walk again, I was walking with a limp and I’m not sure if that was a physical or mental thing, but my physio had to keep reminding me to walk normally.”
After the initial progress of being able to walk again it was time to learn how to run again. During the height of this process her physios would have her running three days a week and working on her strength for two.
She also needed to successfully learn a split squat before she even being able to run again. Despite the struggles the recovery can bare Iesha ended up embracing the grind.
“Being able to run again is more like trotting when you start just like Bambi, it just didn’t feel right,” De Andrade commented.
“You begin to do it inside before outside, so you get used to the rhythm again. It is just bizarre because I think you expect to be able to run normally straight away so having to practise running and walking normally was a strange experience.”
The rehab part of it has become fun which is weird because naturally the injury itself was not a fun experience, but I have to give props to my physio, Tim, who has created a great rehab environment.
“They were my team before I could train with my team again.”
The long and arduous journey eventually culminated in the midfielder being cleared three weeks before she would eventually make her return. The return came on May 29th in a 3-0 victory against Wagga City Wanderers in reserve grade for 30 minutes. She even had the caveat of making her return as a winger when she usually plays as a fullback.
“It felt amazing. Training with team really ramped up once I was cleared to train properly with the team. Nicole was like no going easy on Iesha now,” she laughed.
“It was good because it forced me to not think and be hesitant about my knee. The last week heading up to my first game it really hit me I was just so nervous. The support of Olympic was so amazing I was more nervous with everyone’s support rather than the injury.
“It was an indescribable feeling having everyone there, I was just so happy.”
Iesha has a few words for others that are going through the same recovery noting the importance of taking the process as it comes and listening to the medical professionals who are doing their best for you.
“Trust the process because it is definitely a long road will I ever run will I ever be able to do what I am used to,” she said.
“Surround yourself with supportive people as it helps get you there because it’s not easy. I was very lucky to have the full support of everyone at Olympic. Not only my team and coaches, but board members, technical director, even the kids playing in the younger age groups.
“It really motivated me to get back out there.”
Iesha will be playing reserves for the next couple of weeks to gain match fitness and ease her back into the thick of things. Once she is ready to play first grade again, Nicole Begg will have a player in Iesha that is incredibly determined for the game she loves.
Words: Matt Nicoletti