Injuries don't stop ETSU's Katie O'Bryan
Injuries don't stop ETSU's Katie O'Bryan
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

(October 25, 2005) - Can an injury be a good thing? It was for ETSU's soccer standout Katie O'Bryan.


After having two serious knee injuries, and undergoing three surgeries on her ACL, O'Bryan has come to think of her sidelining injuries in a positive way. After the summer of her freshman year in high school while competing in the Olympic Development Program, O'Bryan tore her left ACL and had to undergo reconstructive surgery which left her off the field during an eight-month recovery period. 


"Before I got injured in high school, I had played soccer every day and so once I was hurt, I began to question whether I really wanted to do it anymore," O'Bryan said.  "After my injury I got a whole new appreciation for the sport. I don't know what would have happened if I hadn't been injured."


After her first ACL surgery, O'Bryan went on to play a complete season before injuring her knee again and undergoing a minor surgery. The next two years of high school were injury free, but a brace was necessary for O'Bryan to play.


"When it came time for me to commit to ETSU I had a lot of questions, like what happens if I come here and get injured again, but Coach (Heather Henson) saw that my past injuries were not affecting my play now," O"Bryan said.


Just when O'Bryan thought she was in the clear, the unthinkable happened during her freshman campaign. With five games left in the season, she tore her ACL again in a game against Elon. This time her surgery would require she get a donor ligament since her knee had already suffering through several operations. 

"If I hadn't enjoyed my freshman year of soccer so much, it would have been a big deal for me to get hurt," O'Bryan said. "Coach was sure I was coming back and I had her support before I had my own."


After having surgery on November 6th, O'Bryan faced another long stretch of physical therapy before she could get out on the field again. 


"Coach would find things for me to do, she'd go to my doctors appointments with me and ask the doctors what I could do so I could be working on little things," O'Bryan said. "I would hold the ball under my foot and roll it around or count how many touches I could make and my competitive drive started kicking in again."


Even though O'Bryan was able to challenge herself in her individual drills, she still missed the regular practices with her teammates. 


"I went to all the stuff that my team did and all I wanted was to be out on the field," O'Bryan said. "My injuries showed me just how important soccer was in my life. Some people only do it for their parents, or because they feel they have to, but I play soccer because that's who I am. It's what I love."

By May, O'Bryan was finally able to practice again with her teammates, a full seven months after her surgery.  She stayed at ETSU over the summer to take classes and to work with a trainer.  All her hard work paid off as this season O'Bryan has played and started in all the Buccaneers games. 


"I worked so hard all summer and I feel I've earned the spot I'm in today.  It makes me feel glad that I went through surgeries and came back able to still compete," O'Bryan said.  "My team is very supportive and they never treated me any differently."


O'Bryan is enrolled in the honors biology program at ETSU, thanks mostly to her experience in physical therapy during her injuries. 

"I decided I wanted to be a biology major from my knee injury. When I first hurt my knee, I was young and curious. I would always be watching and asking questions," O'Bryan said.  "My physical therapy got me involved in what I wanted to do as a career so I came to college knowing exactly what I wanted to major in. I'm planning on going to graduate school and studying physical therapy once I graduate."


On the field, things continue to look up for O'Bryan, who has two goals on the season. The first of came against Gardner-Webb on October 16th and the second against South Carolina State on October 19th. 


The numerous injuries, surgeries, and hours of physical therapy have shaped O'Bryan into who she is today, on the field and off. 


"So many people just quit after an injury. If you do not have the passion for the sport, it is not going to work.  I am a naturally competitive person and I will do anything to compete, "O'Bryan said.  "I've learned a lot from this experience and I couldn't see myself doing anything else."