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The ACL Club: Colorado athletes find community and support as they deal with struggles of torn ACLs

Posted at 4:21 PM, Apr 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-17 19:33:11-04

DENVER -- For people who have torn their ACL, the physical recovery can be a struggle. But what is even more troubling is the mental struggle athletes looking to get back in their game face during that time.

It can be hard to feel mentally ready to play when coming back from a major knee surgery, so former professional soccer player Jordan Angeli decided to create a support group to help get athletes back on the field.

“I wanted to create a community that brought light to this club,” Angeli said. “You know, we’re these scarred warriors. If you see somebody with a scar on their knee, you kind of feel like you know a little piece of their journey and it connects you in that way.”

Angeli tore her ACL three separate times and has had a total of seven surgeries, all on her left knee. She knows the effect a strong support system can have on the recovery process.

“It’s helping them on the mental and emotional side, so that when they get back to return to play they don’t feel like they’re rushing back because they want to be back on the field," she said.

Her former athletes, Olivia Pietro and Rylie Haussler, know what that support can do, too. Combined, the two have tore their ACL’s four times.

They both remember what it felt like. What it sounded like.

“I felt a small pop," Pietro said.

“I heard the pop. It was not good,” Haussler remembered.

So, how do you deal with the grind of physical therapy when one day you feel good, and the next you can barely move?

“We aren’t really taught how to deal with things that are mentally and emotionally difficult. So, when you can’t do something, it’s going to make you frustrated and then — how do you deal with that frustration? Well, we used to go to the field,” Angeli said.

A physical therapist at UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Denver whom Denver7 spoke with, says the average recovery time for an ACL tear takes at least six months. Through the ACL CLUB, athletes from all sports can connect and share stories on their recovery. The goal is to make sure athletes have somebody to talk to about their own struggles.

“When you go through it, you can connect with those who’ve been injured as well,” Haussler said.

With that support system in place, athletes says their return to the field is well worth the wait.