Sabrina D’Angelo: Staying Positive on The Road to Recovery

Performance & Sport

The Injury

It was the 59th minute of our derby game, emotions were high and we were filled with adrenaline. The score was 3-2, and I had no idea in that moment that my year was going to change dramatically. Collecting a bouncing ball that had come through our back line, I planted a little funny and went down. Having past knee injuries, my gut was telling me that it was just my meniscus, nothing serious. I gathered myself and played the rest of the game…like I said plenty of adrenaline. Fast forward a couple days and I learned that my ACL was either partially or fully torn.

I can still remember the day I got the news, having to call my parents on the other side of the world and then having to drive to training to tell my team. After giving myself a couple days to be upset, I knew I had to change my mindset quick. I’m not one to sit around and feel sorry for myself, and I believe that what I feed my mind I feed the rest of my body. I knew negative energy wasn’t going to help. My role in my club environment unfortunately changed, but that didn’t stop me from giving them all my energy and positive spirits whenever I could.

With the Olympics being postponed to next year due to COVID, I knew I had plenty of time to rehab and come back even stronger. Non-essential surgeries in Sweden weren’t happening when I tore my ACL, so I had to wait a month until they opened back up. As badly as I wanted to be on the other side of surgery, I was grateful to have that time. It gave me the opportunity to fully wrap my head around what I was about to go through and more importantly get in all my last lifts and runs. Anyone who knows me knows I love to be in the gym, so having those weeks of freedom was just what I needed.

The Surgery

Surgery happened August 3rd, and I ended up having my ACL fully repaired. With no other traumas in the knee, it was an easy repair, and I was finally on the other side of surgery. I felt like a million bucks when I came out of surgery, but the next day was a different story. I like to think I have a high pain tolerance, but that morning when I woke up, I wanted to cry because I was in so much pain.

Looking back my favourite part about day one post-op was when the nurse called to check in. I informed her that I was in a great deal of pain and her recommendation to ease the pain was to try and use some ice. Let’s just say I used something a little stronger for a couple days.

The Recovery

The first couple weeks were a snooze fest with regards to rehab, boring little exercises and a lot of being plopped on the couch. As boring as those first weeks were, I am so grateful that I had amazing people in my corner making sure I didn’t overdo it. Once those first couple weeks were over though the fun stuff started to come in and a whole lot of gratitude and appreciation for my body was not too far behind. Learning how to walk again, getting a full circle on the bike, and getting full extension were just some of the many things I had taken for granted before surgery.

I spent the first 3 months of my rehab in Sweden. Being in my team environment kept me motivated and my teammates inspired me every day. Getting to share my little wins with them made the process that much more gratifying. While my teammates kept me motivated, the amazing team of professionals helping with my rehab program kept things challenging and fun. Without their support from abroad and in Sweden, I wouldn’t have headed back to Canada making as much progress as I did. I even had the opportunity to run for the first time before heading home - a feeling I’ll never forget.

Being back in Canada this past month has been a tough one both physically and even mentally at times. But as tough as its been, it has also been the first time I started to feel like myself again. Getting to step back on the field with my gloves and boots on and doing something as simple as catching a ball made me feel alive. There have been days this past month when I was just beat and unmotivated, but in those moments I always tried to remember why I’m doing what I’m doing and why I’m pushing my body to the limits day after day. We all have dreams, and my dreams are my driving force through this rehab.

So, here I am, over four months post operation and this journey is far from over for me. I’ve got a new appreciation for my body and a new level of gratitude for the little things. Learning how to do things from scratch again has been frustrating at times, but it has also brought me so much joy over these past months. The Olympics and my next club season are just around the corner, and they are 100% my front side focus. Everything happens for a reason and I know this journey will help make me a better goalkeeper and more importantly a better human.