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Leap into the unknown: New York Mills pole vaulter faces surgery, long rehabilitation
By ANNE DELANEY
Posted Nov 25, 2009 @ 08:13 PM
NEW YORK MILLS —
Linda Hadfield is one of them.
Approximately 100,000 young female athletes (ages 15 to 25) sustain anterior cruciate ligament injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Last month Hadfield, a two-time state pole vaulting champion at New York Mills, became one of those athletes when she tore the ACL in her left knee during a field hockey game.
“I felt like they were taking my life away,” she said.
Hadfield, a senior, has concentrated on the pole vault since ninth grade. She and Rome Free Academy’s Kelly Benfey train with a coach at the Tompkins County Pole Vault Club and compete in indoor meets.
In June, Hadfield qualified for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association meet in the 100-meter hurdles and the pole vault, but the pole vault is her signature event.
At the state open qualifying track meet, Hadfield, 17, set a personal best and Section III record with a vault of 12 feet, 6 inches.
Hadfield went to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill earlier this month for an official visit, but she was counting on the indoor season to show colleges more of her ability in the vault. Now, she will spend the winter doing rehabilitation.
The way Hadfield was injured was typical of an ACL tear. She was running in a home game against Cooperstown when her right leg slipped. Hadfield’s left leg locked up bearing the force of her body’s motion, and the damage was done.
The damage was more extensive than she imagined.
There was no swelling in the joint after she was hurt. A surgeon’s examination did not detect instability and her knee did not feel loose, which is often present with an ACL tear.
A week later, an MRI revealed the tear. The meniscus – cartilage rings inside and outside of the knee which was thought to be damaged – was in good shape. The ACL was fuzzy, indicating a tear.
“It never entered my head,” she said. “It was a shock, an absolute shock.”
She is scheduled for surgery next month and is expecting 16 to 20 weeks of rehab. She is hoping to be in shape to compete for New York Mills in the spring.
Hadfield’s left leg is the leg she takes off from when vaulting so it will have to be completely healed before she can return.
“I’ve come to terms with it,” she said. “Half of the recovery is mental and I want to get better. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself nothing good will come of it.”