The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East


Major comeback: athletes share experiences overcoming ACL tears

Major comeback: athletes share experiences overcoming ACL tears
Izzy Alvarez (’25)

One fall, one tackle, one pivot, one step: one split second and the next 9-12 months of thousands of high school athletes’ lives change forever. An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) rupture, also known as an ACL tear, has become the dreaded, yet so common, diagnosis amongst even Cherry Hill High School East’s toughest players.

“I cried a lot,” said Jenna McGovern (‘24), who partially tore her Medial Meniscus, sprained her MCL (Medial Cruciate Ligament) and completely tore her ACL during an East versus Robbinsville basketball game in December of 2022. “There’s nothing that really prepares you to hear news like that.”

With only 30 seconds left on the clock, McGovern collided with an opposing player, fell to the ground and was struck with pain instantly. After talking to her doctor, she was presented with the uphill battle heading her way.

“Part of me was still holding on to the hope that it was something minor and just hearing that was definitely upsetting,” said McGovern

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On September 8, 2023. Ben Cohen (‘24), East’s varsity quarterback, was hit, took a wrong step and hyperextended his knee.

“It happened and I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m done for the season,’” said Cohen.

After sustaining a torn ACL, second-degree MCL sprain, bone bruising and injuries to his hamstring, calf and Achilles tendon, Cohen realized the amount of dedication, hard work and positivity he would need to return to the field.

But sometimes, it’s hard to stay positive.

“I know for a lot of kids, especially at this age, sports are their identity. … When they lose that identity because they can’t play [a] sport, they can’t excel, they can’t practice, they can’t be around their teammates as much. It’s hard,” said Mr. Scott Hatch, an East athletic trainer.

“It was just so debilitating, both physically and mentally,” said McGovern. “There’s nothing you can do about it in the very beginning. You just watch everything happen and it’s upsetting.”

McGovern and Cohen both agree that the days following surgery are some of the toughest. While rehabilitation is key in preparing an athlete for their recovery post surgery, it also returns the athletes to some normalcy: working out, moving and practicing. Surgery, although paramount, takes away that sense of normalcy, often-times placing the athlete back to square one, making them feel as if they had just taken a major step back.

“After surgery, being in bed rest was the hardest because you aren’t able to do anything,” said Cohen. “Going from playing in a football game to not being able to walk within weeks is tough.”

McGovern admitted the overall fear that encompassed everything: “I was sixteen years old getting this major surgery, having to wear this gigantic brace, and was about to tackle this really long recovery process. I didn’t know what setbacks I was going to face and there was so much unknown. ”

Injured athletes commit so much of their time to physical therapy, sports therapy and the gym, putting their all into every exercise. Although sports are often the main cause leading to a torn ACL, they tend to also be one of the main motivations to get back. While the recovery process can be daunting, observing how far they’ve come, feeling proud of their accomplishments, and having hope that they will return, encourages athletes to overcome the most difficult hurdles. Before they know it, a mere rotation on the bike becomes a jog on the treadmill –– a significant milestone in the ACL’s recovery process.

“For a while, you don’t feel like an athlete anymore because you are confined to such simple activities,” said McGovern. “I actually did cry the first time I ran just because it had been so long … literally six months after the injury. It just hit me in the moment because being able to run meant I was getting better; I was getting there.”

“Squatting and lifting–– those are big for me,” said Cohen “But [running] is what I’m really waiting for and to be able to start moving again. That’s what I’m most excited for.”

However, unfortunately with highs come lows. Recovery doesn’t always go according to plan and sometimes you need to take a step back to take a leap forward.

“It’s so frustrating because sometimes you are doing everything you can and you still feel like it is not enough,” said McGovern. “It’s just such a learning process. I’ve practiced and conditioned so much …but every bit is mental as it is physical.”

In his role as an athletic trainer, Hatch is aware of the emotional toll that injuries can take on East’s athletes. Having experienced his own mental health struggles, he understands the emotional impact that such setbacks can have. While he only sees a small portion of it, he knows how much worse it can be behind closed doors.

“I think opening up a dialect that it’s okay to not be okay is the most important part,” said Hatch.
“It’s okay to ask for help; it’s okay to say I’m vulnerable. Some days you have it, some days you don’t, and that’s also okay. It’s my job to keep them level, especially on the low days.”

With a long isolating injury like a torn ACL, it’s important to surround yourself with people that support you through your highs and your lows. It may not be an easy recovery, but having friends, teammates, coaches and family by your side make it much easier.

“The injury puts you through hell and back,” said McGovern. “It shouldn’t be something that people feel like they can’t talk about because you need to have an outlet for it.”

“A lot of the teammates got me gifts and some showed up to my house after surgery. They’ve been very supportive,” said Cohen.

For any athlete currently battling an ACL injury, it’s important to be proud of yourself, celebrate each and every little victory and remember the strong support system that is your team, your coaches, your family and your friends. After all, take it from McGovern and Cohen, two athletes who have spent months overcoming the physical and mental obstacles of this injury to return to the sports that they love.

“It’s a really difficult process, but you are going to get better even if you aren’t seeing progress right away. I promise you, you are making progress everyday that you are doing something,” said McGovern.

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About the Contributors
Ava Crawley
Ava Crawley, Eastside Features Editor
Ava Crawley is a junior and the Print Features Editor for Eastside. Outside of Eastside, she loves playing field hockey, as well as spending time with her friends and family. Ava is excited to work with everyone to make sure Eastside has a great year!
Izzy Alvarez
Izzy Alvarez, Eastside Photo Director
Izzy Alvarez is a junior and the Photo Director for Eastside. When she is not busy taking photos or studying, she can be found on the soccer field, reading, creating Spotify playlists, watching Formula 1, or hanging out with friends and family. She also loves her cats and shopping for different skincare products.

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