In the moment when sophomore forward Jordyn Bradbury heard her knee pop last September, her mind went completely blank.
“I don’t remember much besides the most excruciating pain I’ve ever been in,” Bradbury said. “My first thought was, ‘Please don’t let this be my ACL.’ I went to the doctor, and it turned out that it was. Soccer has been my life since I was 5 – it’s crazy to have that all taken away in a split second.”
Women’s soccer head coach Courtney Calderon described Bradbury as a talented player when she came to Chapman her freshman year.
“We had really high expectations for her, but right as she was getting started, she tore her ACL,” Calderon said.
Bradbury’s doctors gave her a choice between getting the surgery with a recovery period of nine to 10 months, which would allow her to get back on the field, or going through rehabilitation and physical therapy to function with a torn ACL, which would mean that she would never be able to play again.
Without hesitation, Bradbury opted for the surgery.
Even though she was injured in September 2016, she was not able to get surgery until October, after going through four weeks of “pre-hab” – physical therapy to strengthen and stabilize the knee, and help prepare her for an easier recovery. She spent the month after her operation in a full leg cast and on crutches, and had to move out of her original dorm room into a new room that had disability accommodations.
Chapman director of athletic training Pamela Gibbons said an ACL tear is both an emotionally and physically trying injury.
“It’s a long recovery,” Gibbons said. “You’re talking about eight to 18 months to get back on the field and return to what you want to do after surgery, and some athletes take even longer. Once you injure your ACL, your season is over, and for some athletes, their entire career is over.”
Bradbury started physical therapy a month after her surgery, and during the process, she said that she was constantly fighting to overcome negative thoughts in addition to the physical process of recovery.
“There was a point where I wanted to quit,” Bradbury said. “I didn’t know what to do or who I was without soccer, but I realized I needed to be positive and optimistic, because it’s probably 70 percent mental, and only 30 percent physical, and if I wanted to be back on the field, I had to work for it every single day.”
Bradbury returned to the field in a knee brace for the first time since her injury at the team’s tryouts this year.
“Coming back was tough at first, but I think I can get back to the point I was at last year as far as my technique, because I am even stronger now than I was last year after all of the rehab and physical therapy,” Bradbury said.
Bradbury has already made her presence felt on the field, scoring two goals and assisting another in a 3-0 win against Emerson College Sept. 3. She said that she wants to come back even stronger than before and make it to the national championship.
Senior defender Emily Watts said Bradbury constantly supported the team during her rehab process.
“A lot of times after an athlete gets an injury like that, they think that they’re done,” Watts said. “Not Jordyn. She was at every practice supporting and helping the team from the sidelines, and super proactive about her recovery last year while going through rehab, which helped her get through it pretty quickly, so it all paid off in the long run.”
Bradbury said that the entire experience changed her for the better.
“If I could go back and change the fact that I got injured, I wouldn’t,” Bradbury said. “It helped me grow as a person so much, and I learned that life isn’t going to always be easy. I don’t take anything for granted anymore.”