The trend holds weight in the Rail City. While it takes some effort to name some male high school athletes who have suffered ACL injuries, some of the top female athletes at Sparks high schools have had their careers put on hold due to ACL injuries.
The latest victim and probably the one with the most athletic potential is Reed junior Gabby Williams. Not only was Williams an alternate for the U.S. Olympic Track and Field team this past summer at the age of 16, but she has also been highly recruited by major Div. I basketball programs. UCLA was on hand to see her suffer the knee injury at Reno High Saturday, 30 seconds into the game.
But the list certainly doesn’t begin and end with Williams. You also have Jordan Rogers, now a senior basketball player for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, who tore her ACL in her right knee during her freshman season at Reed and again leading into her senior season at Spanish Springs. She has been battling knee pain in her left knee during her college career.
Torn ACLs are most common in sports where athletes make abrupt stops and change direction, which is part of the reason why the injury has been so common with soccer players.
Reed girls soccer coach Jason Saville has seen three of his players suffer ACL injuries during his time with the Blue and Gold. Ashlie Brown, a team captain for the Raiders, tore her ACL in her senior season before going on to play for Nevada.
Kelsey Gomer, one of the team’s most potent scorers and fastest runners under Saville, tore her ACL while playing club soccer during her senior year and was forced to redshirt her freshman year at Dixie State College of Utah.
Reed soccer's most recent major ACL injury came this past year as senior Haley White missed the fall campaign after suffering her third tear in four years. Ironically, one of White’s ACL tears happened in the semifinals of a club soccer tournament and Gomer’s occurred a game later in the finals, so Saville had to take both players back with ACL injuries.
“When you look around the league this year, you had Alex Von Schottenstein from Douglas who tore hers during the club season and was unable to play high school. You look at Josi Daggs from Carson. Carson was already loaded and obviously won regionals. Having Josi would have made them that more potent,” Saville said. “There are a couple other girls at other schools that have gone down, but those are the two big ones from last year. Then you take somebody like Gabby (Williams) in other sports. The Reed girls basketball team is talented, but when a big part of what is going on goes out with an ACL, not only are you losing that production but you’re also taking away psychologically from the team.
“ACL injuries are starting to become more of a factor. Not that people didn’t tear them before, but it seems like the number is going up. I think that especially in sports like soccer, kids are playing year-round with little rest. Club seasons go up until a week before we’re starting high school. If there is a tweak or a nag or an overuse of the knee, there is never any break to let that heal or strengthen. In my opinion, there’s no other reason because the only thing different from when we coached 12 or 13 years ago is kids played year-round, but they also played other sports and the year-round didn’t mean what it meant today.”
Saville said year-round used to mean that you would be off when the high school season ended until the end of January or even February, and then you would play until June, so there were two extended breaks. Now, club teams hold tryouts a week after the state finals, if not before, and will run all the way through the summer.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like these injuries will decrease until there is a change in priorities with club sports.
“Obviously I think it would be awesome to give kids a break. The reality of it is, most parents think that if their kids play club, they will get a scholarship. That’s not a reality, but you can’t tell a parent that,” Saville said. “What we’re doing on the club side as young as my U13 is we’re dedicating a practice or two for ACL prevention by stretching and doing proper workouts to help prevent ACL tears. At the end of the day, we’ll see if that will be enough or not.
“You just do what you can do and hope that some of these other clubs would do some ACL prevention. It would be nice if these club coaches would give the kids at least a month between seasons to rest. That’s not going to happen. They’re making money and the parents want (their kids to play). The reality is it’s just not going to stop. You just have to roll the dice with your daughter and hope that those kids don’t tear their ACL and go on to be part of the 1 percent that gets a scholarship.”
However, Williams’ injury wasn’t the case of overuse and competing in one sport year-round. Williams simply had no place to safely land while going to the hoop as a defender fell underneath her. Williams landed wrong and twisted her knee.
That’s a commonplace for ACL injuries. Around 70 percent of ACL injuries occur during non-contact situations.
On Tuesday, Williams found out that she suffered a torn ACL in her right knee and partial tear of the meniscus. Surgery is scheduled for Feb. 11 and Dr. James Pappas, formerly a team doctor for the University of Nevada, will perform the procedure.
During Tuesday night’s game against Carson, Williams’ father Matt, said he won’t rush his daughter’s recovery and plans to have her take off a full year. With hard work and proper physical therapy, most athletes can return in around eight months, but he wants to make sure she returns at the level of play she is used to competing.
After watching Reed win without her Tuesday, Williams said she is looking forward to coming back sometime next season to help her team.
“I just wanted to sub in with my brace on. It’s fine. I know I’m going to get a better vision of the court seeing it from my coach’s point of view. It’s going to be more mental than it is physical, and I’m going to take advantage of it,” Williams said. “They don’t know if they can (medically) release me for October, so I don’t know if I will be here for the whole season, but hopefully I will be there as soon as possible because it’s tough not being able to go help them.”
There is a silver lining. The injury occurred in her non-plant leg, so her high jumping shouldn’t be affected. Also, college basketball programs have left their offers on the table and have been supportive of Williams, which was the main thing she was worried about.
Still, it’s sad for those around her to see her be forced to the sidelines not only for the remainder of the basketball season but for track this spring as well. Matt Williams said his daughter is handling the situation better than he is, and her basketball coach also feels bad.
“I feel bad for her because she’s just a great kid and works really, really hard,” Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schoper-Ramirez said. “She’s out for basketball and out for track. She’s like my kid. It’s hard. It’s like I told her, have your surgery and come back next year and you’ll be 10 times stronger. It’s just good it’s not her senior year. She has one more year to do what she wants and get us there."