ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: What It Feels Like to Be the Victim of a Rumplestiltskin

By Nicole Stewart // As Told to Joseph Whittall

I didn’t know what happened. One minute I was running down a 50/50 ball, the next I was getting up off the ground, unable to walk on my left ankle.

The worst case scenario consumed my thoughts: broken ankle, fractured foot or even worse. I didn’t get off the field though. I got up and tried to play through the pain. Five minutes later, the referee blew the whistle, and half time had arrived.

I limped off the field. My coach was the first person to meet me as the pain seared. Even he didn’t know I was hurt. His first reaction was anger. He couldn’t believe a foul wasn’t called. The other girl got away without even so much as a free kick given. Meanwhile, I was in immense agony, unable to even limp at this point.

The pain was unbearable. I was sure I at least fractured my ankle. I didn’t go back in for the rest of the game. It wasn’t until later that I found out the diagnosis: a badly sprained ankle.

It wasn’t the end of the world, but it certainly was the end of my season. We only had a couple games left and the recovery period would be much longer than a month.

I may have only been a freshman on junior varsity, but I was disappointed to see my season come to an early end. I had made so many friends during this year, and it was a shame I couldn’t play with them through to the end.

I felt meaningless on the bench those last few games. I had to sit and watch my friends play, while I just sat on the sidelines trying to play cheerleader.

As the excitement of summer signaled the end of my freshman year of soccer, I felt unsatisfied with how things ended. I wasn’t able to play the season in full. I didn’t end the season on my terms. It was ended prematurely thanks to the dirty play of the opposing team. My season was stolen from me.

The recovery took three months. I slowly rehabilitated my sprained ankle over the days and weeks that followed that fateful day. I had to do different exercises to gain back the strength in my ankle.

I’ve had problems with my ankles for most of my life. The sprain I had freshman year was the worst, but it wasn’t my only. I had been on crutches before and I knew what it was like to be in a boot, but everything about this injury was worse. It was longer, more painful, and it required more work to get back to full strength.

It is almost three years later and I am still not back to 100 percent strength. The muscles aren’t what they used to be, and my athletic career has suffered because of it.

I now find myself unable to play sports. It isn’t because of the lasting injury, but because of the fear. I worry that if I keep playing, the chance of getting hurt gets larger and larger. The risk of injury is too great. My well-being is worth more than the love of the game.

That girl from the other team stole more from me than she knows. She stole my season, my mobility for three months and the strength of my ankle. But while she stole many things from me, it is thanks to her that other doors have been opened.

I’m in four AP classes this year, as well as numerous honors classes. It would’ve been a lot harder to do that and play sports, especially in the spring. I’m proud of the fact I have maintained all A’s during my time at Antioch Community High School; if I added sports on top of that, I would’ve been overloaded.

In a way, I’m thankful for my injuries. They have helped to define who I am. While I would’ve loved to play sports, I have been able to have so many memorable experiences with friends instead.

When injuries happen in sports, it’s easy to just get angry, to feel that the world is stacked against you. I was angry after I got injured. I felt like I had a part of me stolen away by someone I had never met before; however, I learned to take things in perspective. It’s easy to just give up and quit when your season ends prematurely, but I didn’t. I realized that new opportunities opened up for me.

I never had a chance to talk to the girl who hurt me. She never apologized. But that day was a day that I won’t soon forget. It set the stage for the rest of my high school career. If she had never taken me out and sprained my ankle, who knows what I’d be doing now. Sometimes, an injury is simply a blessing in disguise.