Soccer athlete Lydia didn't let an ACL injury slow down her stride. Our experts got her back on the field. Here's her story.

After returning from a hip injury and finishing out her sophomore season at South Side Area High School in Hookstown, Pennsylvania, Lydia continued her soccer season playing for her cup team, FC Pittsburgh.

What happened during her first game of the season in December 2019, however, would be the beginning of a long road to recovery.

Photo courtesy of Newbrough Photo

The Challenge: Soccer Injury

“During play, I reached for the ball with my left leg. When I planted my foot, I felt my leg give out and heard a pop, followed by extreme pain,” Lydia says.

Sitting out the rest of the game, she would later find out that she had injured her ACL, putting her soccer and track involvement on hold.

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The Path to UPMC: An Ongoing Relationship

When Lydia tore the labrum in her hip in 2018, Dharmesh Vyas, MD, PhD, had performed her hip surgery at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. So, when she injured her knee, her family reached out to Dr. Vyas again to determine the extent of her injury.

After an appointment with Dr. Vyas at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, an MRI confirmed that Lydia had suffered a complete tear of her ACL, requiring surgery and an extensive recovery.

“Before Dr. Vyas broke the bad news, he asked me what I wanted to do after high school,” Lydia says. “I told him that I wanted to play soccer. It never even occurred to me to stop playing just because of an injury.”

The Solution: ACL Reconstruction Surgery

Since Lydia wanted to continue playing soccer throughout high school and in college, Dr. Vyas walked her through the options for her ACL reconstruction.

“He advised us to go the route of using a patellar tendon autograft during surgery, which would offer the best opportunity for her to continue her soccer career,” says Matt, Lydia’s father. “Knowing Lydia’s desire to play soccer in college, though, we knew that there really was no other option for her.”

Following surgery at UPMC Montefiore in February 2020, Lydia began physical therapy, where she worked to strengthen her leg and knee.

The Recovery: Ahead of Schedule

Normally, an ACL injury of this magnitude requires nine months of recovery before returning to play, which meant Lydia would miss her entire junior season. However, Lydia’s hard work and determination managed to put her recovery ahead of schedule.

“When I went to see Dr. Vyas in August, I was expecting to hear that I’d still have to wait until November before I could even think about playing again,” Lydia says. “But when he tested my leg strength and stability, I could tell he was surprised and impressed. He even brought in another attending physician to show off my leg as an example of great progress.”

Seeing such positive progress, Dr. Vyas shortened Lydia’s return to play time, meaning that she wouldn’t miss out on her junior season after all.

The Results: More Than Just a Recovery

After successfully completing her rehab in the fall, Lydia rejoined her high school soccer team only two weeks after the start of the season. She went on to help the team reach the WPIAL semi-finals for the first time in their school’s history.

Lydia also joined the Beadling Soccer Club as a training player that fall, and her role quickly transitioned to a starting center forward with the ’04 Girls Elite Team. Between her high school season play and multiple outings with Beadling, she was noticed by several college soccer coaches who then began recruiting her.

Furthermore, for the first time since eighth grade, Lydia was able to have a track season. She decided to focus on the 400-meter event and won every race of her junior season, including the 2021 Beaver Country Track & Field Championships. Based on her running success, two more schools reached out to gauge Lydia’s interest in college track.

Lydia was invited to several soccer ID camps during the summer 2021 and earned four offers to play soccer at the collegiate level. Her story started with injuries and fear of how they would impact her athletic future. Thanks to the surgical advice and care from Dr. Vyas and UPMC, combined with her commitment during physical therapy, Lydia will be able to write the next chapter of her soccer career on a college pitch in 2022.

“Overall, we are very appreciative and extremely grateful for the work Dr. Vyas has done for Lydia,” says Lydia’s father.

For more information about UPMC Sports Medicine and its ACL Program, or to schedule an appointment, please call 1-855-937-7678.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.