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#BounceBack: Getting Pumped and Game Ready Post-Injury

Several months out from ankle surgery, Ohio Machine midfielder Kyle Harrison is headed to the MLL playoffs. But heading into surgery, Kyle wasn’t sure he’d back for the season, let alone be in game shape for playoffs. Here are a few tips from the man himself on coping with surgery, becoming a better player through injury, and suiting your body up for high level play after months out of the game:

Experience #TheRoadBack with Kyle Harrison, an STX original YouTube series.

You’ve had an incredible comeback – surgery in April and back on the field in June. How are you feeling?

Coming along…physically, I still get sore pretty quickly, but every game I play it gets a little better. Wrapping up the second half of the season and heading into post-season, I'm trying to get in a rhythm and get my ankle conditioned all while in play, which is tough with no pre-season or training camp, but I'm staying with it. I’m loving every minute of being back on the field, and I’m pumped for playoffs!

In a process like this, you face highs and lows – how would you describe the different stages of your #RoadBack?

· Shock – Initially I was in shock. My ankle has been hurt for a few years now, but I could tolerate the pain and still play at a high level. Right before training camp, I had the MRI and learned that surgery was needed to repair torn ligaments and cartilage. I was definitely not prepared for that news.

· Control Mode – After 48 hours, I immediately switched to planning the recovery process. Asking questions like: how quickly can I come back, what's it going to take, who’s the best professional athlete PT in Charlotte, and things of that nature.

· #OilUp – After surgery, it was about figuring out how to keep the rest of my body in shape while being confined to a cast/boot. After the cast/boot came off, it was all about PT.

There were days when all my PT would do was point my foot to stretch the ankle and then take a break – just misery for a dude used to sprinting all over the place and playing pick-up hoops.

· #TurnUp – Then PT turned up, running started, and I slowly got the feeling that I'd be able to play sooner than we originally thought, which was both exciting and scary. Exciting because it's what I've done my entire life, but scary because I hadn't run at full speed or changed direction on my ankle, and there wasn’t going to be any test run – I was going straight into game play.

· Hit the Field – Now, I'm just focusing on getting in game shape, getting my shooting rhythm back, and supporting my team however I can.

What’s been the toughest part?

It’s still tough, quite frankly. Every step of the process feels like it’s the toughest when you’re in it. Even when I first got back on the field, it was frustrating because I couldn’t run to get in good cardio shape (low impact training only) which affected my wind in games, which affected my mechanics, which ultimately affected my rhythm.

How do you stay positive when you can’t do everything you’re used to or have a bad day at PT?

At the end of the day, this is a game. An important game - one that I've spent almost my entire life playing, and care deeply about - but it's a game nonetheless. My wife, my daughter, and the rest of my family are healthy and happy. Besides this ankle scenario, life is good. No complaints on my end #perspective.

Any pro tips for other athletes working through injury?

Stay positive, stay confident and trust the process. I need to take my own advice here - I'll be back to normal, but, it's going to take time, it doesn't happen overnight. Stay the course, lean on your doctor, and again, stay positive! 

Biggest takeaway from this experience?

Enjoy every minute you get to play this game because it doesn't last forever. You never know when your time will be up or when an injury could take you out of play. I want to hit the field with a new mentality—for me, it’s no longer just fun for me to play, it’s a real gift.

What are some ways players can be proactive and guard against injury?

I think a few things go into it:

· Check your intake  For starters, it’s about paying attention to everything you're putting in your body nutrition-wise and how that affects your performance. As an athlete, there are certain things your body needs to perform at its best.

· Listen to your body and be proactive  If something feels off, tight, strained, etc., have the trainer check it out and see what needs to be done.

· Don’t blow off your exercises – Take stretching and warming up seriously. Gotta get those muscles ready for high-impact movement! I can't tell you how many times I've seen silly injuries happen due to not warming up properly. 

Go deep into Kyle’s recovery process in the STX original series #TheRoadBack – watch him talk through his path to surgery and PT, navigate his role as team captain from the sidelines and finally gear up and hit the field for his first MLL game of the 2017 season

You can also check out Kyle’s top 10 career moments (so far!) here.