Muttathil reflects on the mental impact of her long-term injury
December 1, 2022
When it comes to mental health in sports, having a long-term injury can be devastating. One moment you’re one of the best players on your team and the next you are on the ground, in pain, with a season-ending injury. This was the case for Cherry Hill East field hockey player Kiran Muttathil (‘23).
It was during the middle of her sophomore season when East took on Eastern in a field hockey game. Muttathil was racing for a loose ball when she took an awkward step and collapsed on the ground. The athletic trainers raced over to her and Muttathill ended up at Urgent Care that night. After getting an MRI, what Muttathil had feared worse came true– she had torn her ACL.
The recovery process was a grueling experience for Muttathil. A month after the injury, she had to get her ACL reconstructed, but experienced many complications along the way. While most are able to walk around three months after the reconstruction, Muttathil was unable to. She found out she had arthrofibrosis, a condition where fiber scar tissue was on top of her ACL graft. She had to have additional surgeries in February 2021 and 2022 to correct the arthrofibrosis.
During her junior season, Muttathil was able to start getting back on the field and playing with her team. She was cleared to practice when the season began, but only started playing games midway through the season. Despite being able to play, Muttathil would only play two-quarters of the game. While it was nice to be playing again, Muttathil missed being able to fully play like how she could before the injury.
Going into her senior year, Muttathil had to make the difficult decision not to play. The possibility of having yet another surgery was not a risk that she was willing to take. She believes that having a properly functioning knee for the rest of her life outweighed playing a senior season knowing that it would be her last.
The ACL injury significantly impacted Muttathil not only physically but also mentally. This was the sport that she has loved since beginning high school and was naturally good at. She had just started the process of talking to high academic Division I schools, including some Ivy League schools. Once she suffered the injury and had surgery, colleges stopped talking to Muttathil. When she tried to stay in contact with college coaches during her recovery, it was unsuccessful and she had to give up. This was a devastating blow for her considering she was expected to go Division I and then those dreams went right out the window.
Muttathill says that there are some benefits to her not playing field hockey in college. She has dreamed of going to law school her entire life and balancing that with field hockey everyday would not have been easy. She can now completely focus on her academics and going into the legal field. While it is disappointing for Muttathil that she will not be playing field hockey in college, she has been able to move on and is looking forward to other opportunities and challenges that will face her.