Last updated: December 14, 2012 2:57 am
SASKATOON (CUP) — After three knee surgeries, Huskies women’s basketball forward Erica Gavel was told by doctors that she may never run again. But Gavel refuses to give up the sport she loves and is determined to beat the odds.
She has been on the Huskies’ roster for the last four years, but hasn’t used eligibility for the past two seasons because she has been recovering from multiple surgeries on her left knee.
Gavel went through her first knee surgery in 2010, after her rookie year with the Huskies. That time she was able to fully recover in the off-season before entering her second year on the court. But early in her third season in 2011, Gavel was forced to put her knee back under the knife to fix a meniscus cartilage tear.
“I was in the best shape of my life and my knee had never felt better,” said Gavel on completing the grueling 10-month rehabilitation program after her second knee surgery.
The positive feeling didn’t last long though. During a scrimmage in a pre-season practice this past August, Gavel went up for a jump shot and when she came down she felt that horribly familiar pain in her knee.
“I initially found out I would be out for six weeks. I waited the six weeks and [my knee] didn’t get better,” Gavel said.
After doctors performed a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) on her knee, they told Gavel that her femur, the largest bone in her thigh, had collided with her tibia, the largest bone in her shin. The collision created a micro-fracture in her knee.
“This last surgery was not expected at all,” she said, adding that she underwent surgery just two days after finding out about the micro-fracture.
It was the third surgery on her left knee in as many years. The fourth-year kinesiology student admitted that the month following her surgery was a blur as she tried to cope with another season-ending injury.
“Two weeks after the surgery is when it really hit home because they told me I was going to be out [from playing basketball] for 18 months and there was a chance that I would never run again,” Gavel said. “It was just a lot to deal with.”
News that would destroy the hopes of most athletes only made Gavel more determined than ever.
“With all the injuries you learn a lot about yourself. It forces you to go places you never thought you could actually go,” she said. “It really makes you appreciate things a lot more.”
After working with a few different physiotherapists and researching her injury, Gavel found out that there was still hope for her to return to a high level of basketball after she recovers, but it will be a long and painful process.
“Having injuries like this gets a person to start taking care of your nutrition and sleep. You realize the mental aspect of things is just as important as the physical,” she said.
“For me it’s 1,000 times harder to quit than just buy into the prescription and follow it. That’s how I approach physiotherapy,” Gavel said.
“People say that physio and rehab are so hard, but it’s more of the mental part that makes people think they are hard. If you can go past the mental aspect of things and find ways to look at it from an optimistic point of view, then it’s not going to feel hard.”
Despite not having played in a game in more than a year, Gavel still regularly attends practices.
“It’s not complicated. The reason I’m still here is because it’s fun,” Gavel said. “I have fun when I’m around my team and my coaches and doing my physio. Not even just the team, but all of Huskie Athletics is so good to you. They’ve gone above and beyond what my expectations were coming in and that makes it so much easier to keep coming back.”
Gavel does everything she can to stay involved in the sport.
“To quit and just drop [the team]— it doesn’t even cross my mind,” she said.
Gavel coaches basketball at Aden Bowman Collegiate and with the Junior Huskies basketball program in her spare time. Gavel also recently started playing wheelchair basketball to fill the void of not being able to run and jump on her own.
Gavel lives out what it means to be truly dedicated to sport and team. The fight to get back on the court — even after three knee surgeries — is worth everything to her, and she is the first to admit that her journey back is only possible because of her terrific teammates, coaches and trainers.
“If I had all the money in the world I’d never be able to pay back my physiotherapists and coaches for what they have done for me.”