An Open Letter to Our New ACL Club Members
by Nadia A. Jones
January 19, 2022
To: New ACLClub Members
CC: John Metchie; Jameson Williams
Subject: An Open Letter to Our New ACL Club Members
Dear New Members,
Welcome to the ACL Club! Did you know that our club is one of the only athletic clubs in the world that you don’t voluntarily join? Nope, your admission to our club was automatic! No annual fees, just a one-time payment of…your Anterior Cruciate Ligament!
Here are some facts about the ACL Club. First of all, we value diversity and don't limit our club to only contact sports. Don’t get me wrong. We have A LOT of football, basketball, and soccer players. You might be surprised, however, to know that only 30-40% of our members collided with another athlete when they joined our club. The other 60-70% of our members actually got in solo, on their own, no collision required. Yup, wrong step. Bad landing. Weak quads. You name it, we have it. When I tell people I got into the club by throwing a javelin with a bad plant foot, people who aren’t in the club look at me like I have three eyes. 200,000 people join the ACL Club every year (1). Small clubs aren’t very much fun. Go big or go home right? We typically have more women join our club each year, but I'll save my campaign to level the playing field here by implementing more ACL injury-prevention in our middle and high schools for another letter. Do I wish that you didn’t have to join our club because you neve tore your ACL? Of course! But you did, and you can’t take it back (Rule #1 and #2 of the ACL Club), so now we need to move forward. Roger that?
I’ve publicly cc’d John Metchie and Jameson Williams on this email because both of them recently tore their ACLs on the grand stage of the Southeastern Conference Football Championship and the National Championship, respectively. Guys, I know this isn't a club that you WANTED to join, ever. Let alone in two of the most important games of the 2021-2022 college football season. To be honest, my heart sinks every time I see someone join our club at first. I saw both of you tear your ACL’s live during the games and with my head in my hands I flashed back to “that feeling” for both of you. Laying there on the ground. Contemplating your life. In denial. “Why did this happen to me?” Sudden identity crisis. “Maybe that sound wasn’t my ACL?” The whole world feels like it has suddenly stopped. Body feels numb. Jameson, you even fooled most of the world when you got up and walked out of the arena with so much determination! I walked after mine too, although I didn’t look nearly as good as you did. I do remember telling the athletic trainer who took care of me, Bernard Burroughs (he’s a saint BTW), that I had a few more throws. He kindly told me that I was done throwing javelin that day. I relive all those heart wrenching moments over every time I see this injury. And then something weird happens, I immediately feel encouraged! Looking back, I can honestly say the day I joined the ACL Club was one of the most pivotal moments in my lifetime. While I can't guarantee where your path will lead you, I can promise you this: follow the ACL Club Rules and one day you'll look back and understand why your injury was only a small setback in God’s great plan to catapult you further into your life’s purpose.
ACL Club Rules
1st Rule: You do not think about what could have been.
2nd Rule: You do not think about what could have been. It's done. You tore it. You had it repaired. It's time to move forward. I tell all of our new members you are allowed to be sad for 24 hours, but then you need to move forward and you can't look back.
3rd Rule: If someone tells you that "you can't" or "you won't," remember that "you can" and "you will." Steve Maraboli said, “Write down your goals and go after them. If you do not write it down, you do not have a goal - you have a wish.”
4th Rule: Trust the process. John and Jameson--this should be an easy one for you guys. Trust your sports medicine team. Trust your body to heal in the time that it was created to heal. Trust yourself in every stage of your rehabilitation. Don’t be afraid to take the leap, just as long as your Sports Medicine team has cleared you.
5th Rule: One foot in front of the other. See Rule 4. Trust the process and focus on the stage of your recovery that you are currently in. Your first priority is to protect the repair, reduce swelling, increase your range of motion, and get that quad firing. Your first priority is NOT to dwell on what your teammates or competitors who have intact ACLs are doing right now. When you get to the return to sport stage of your rehabilitation, your priority is to get your surgical leg >90-95% as strong as your non-injured leg. Your priority is not to go out and set personal records at this time. When you are cleared from rehabilitation and transition back into strength and conditioning (these are not always mutually exclusive) your priority is to further develop strength, power, endurance, agility, coordination and skill to help you climb to places you have never been before. All of the ups and downs you will face during this whole process will make you physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger if you trust the process and focus on the phase of your recovery you are in at that time. It's wonderful to have a vision for the future, but have clarity for your day to day too!
6th Rule: No comparing yourself to others in the club. Everyone's experience is different and unique. Don't get on forums and read about worst case scenarios. Don't get on Instagram and spend hours watching highlight reels of someone else's “perfect” experience. No one has a perfect experience. No one’s progress is linear. Think of your recovery like driving up a mountain in the winter. You are going to have some smooth transitions when the sun is shining on you and the altitude is low. Then you’ll hit some icy patches in shaded areas and slide backwards. You might encounter some snow on the road along the way, but thank goodness you have some traction on your tires because you’ll move forward again--might be a little slow. Might get hit with some chunks of ice breaking off the mountain, might hit another warm patch on the road. Might have to get a tow, might have to tow someone or something else. Everyone’s ascent looks different, but when you get to the top you won’t be asking asking everyone around you how they got there. No, when you get to the top you will celebrate and enjoy the view! Listen and encourage those who are joining you in the club, but do NOT compare yourself to them. Comparison is the thief of joy.
7th Rule: Turn a negative into a positive. Instead of sulking about how you CAN’T get out to run in practice, think about what you CAN be doing. You can practice catching a ball with one hand while seated. You can use mental imagery techniques to envision yourself becoming a better athlete. You can do your homework to get yourself stronger. You can actually rest for once, because who knows when you’ll have “time off” from the craziness like this again. You can spend more time with your family. You can focus on your mental and spiritual health. You can work with a sports psychologist. You can focus on your nutrition. Need any more ideas? I actually started an anonymous twitter @track_probs when I tore my ACL. It was a way for me to find comedic relief in the athletic training room while I rehabbed my ACL and my teammates went to practice. My account grew to over 50k followers at one point while I was active on it. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
8th Rule: If this is your first time in the ACL Club, you have to fight. God forbid you have to go through this again, repeat steps 1-8.
I don’t remember a lot about what happened in between my injury and where I am today, but what I can say personally is that when I relive this injury--I rejoice. I rejoice because the small amount I suffered tearing my ACL produced a large amount of opportunities that have led me to where I am today. I believe God’s power was made perfect in my weakness. My hope for all of our members is that you use this “recovery” time to grow in all aspects of your life.
Remember, you have to fight!
Nadia A. Jones
Member 2011 - Present
Beischer, S., Gustavsson, L., Senorski, E. H., Karlsson, J., Thomeé, C., Samuelsson, K., & Thomeé, R. (2020). Young Athletes Who Return to Sport Before 9 Months After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Have a Rate of New Injury 7 Times That of Those Who Delay Return. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 50(2), 83–90. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2020.9071