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Posted by Bill Burkhard on July 20, 2017
As a coach one of our biggest nightmares is that one of our athletes would suffer a season ending injury, especially when that athlete is participating in a sport where they perform at a very high level. It has been my intention to develop an article for our monthly series that deals with the pain, disappointment and, most importantly, recovery from a serious injury. Todd Buckingham, one of my ex-players at Beaver River, suggested this month's featured athlete. After listening to Todd, I knew that this story needed to be told.
With that said, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Sydney Roderick. She just completed her junior year at South Jefferson Central School. She is the daughter (and only child) of Diana Hadlock and Chris Roderick. When I initially met Sydney, I was struck with how quiet and reserved she seemed! However, don't let this quiet, reserved demeanor fool you into thinking that this is how she approaches sports or her life. Actually it is quite the opposite. After listening to this young woman's story, I am now certain she is one of the toughest and most determined young athletes I have ever met. I am pretty sure you will all agree once you hear Sydney's story.
Sydney, like many young athletes, has admittedly tried many different sports. She played soccer until she reached middle school and was a member of the highly successful Lady Spartan basketball program until this year. She hopes to join the women’s tennis program next season. Her favorite sport though is lacrosse. According to her parents, Sydney began playing organized lacrosse in second grade and "there have not been any breaks since." Her parents have gladly traveled with her all over New York and the east coast providing Sydney with the opportunity to "just play." She initially developed her skills to play midfield but since has turned to attack. When she was asked why the change, she jokingly states, "lots less running." Seriously, she enjoys attacking the net and being an important part of the offense. As a natural left hander, her primary role is to pass the ball to potential right handed scorers on their strong hand as they cut to the goal. According to her dad, she is doing pretty well, she "led Section III women lacrosse players with 77 assists this past season." She has spent many hours developing her game with the hope of some day playing lacrosse in college. Everyone I talked to in preparing this article assured me that Sydney can play at that high a level. She has also been a very active member of two local lacrosse clubs (Different Road Patriots and the 1812 All-Stars) which is with whom most of her travel occurs.
Sydney's athletic career seemed to be moving forward nicely and toward her goals until May 7th last year approximately half-way through her sophomore lacrosse season. The Lady Spartans were playing against their rival Watertown High Lady Cyclones, in Watertown. While cutting to the goal and pivoting around a defender, Sydney felt a “pop” in her right knee and fell to the turf. She got to her feet and attempted to defend the goalie’s clear. She had made this type of move countless times before. She remembers falling, and when she got up "I knew something was wrong, but I thought I could still play. " She took a few more steps and realized she would be unable to continue to play. Her dad shares that her knee had "lost its stability," Sydney agreed. She watched the rest of the game from the sidelines, frustrated and not quite fully understanding what had happened. Sydney remembers feeling "devastated, this was the worst thing that ever happened to me."
Jen Williams is Sydney's South Jefferson varsity women's lacrosse coach. Coach Williams remembers the injury vividly. Coach says "I thought it was an ankle injury." In fact she remembers encouraging her to get up! Sydney got up, "took three steps and fell again." That is when she came out of the game.
Sydney's dad made a phone call to a family friend, Mike McElerhan, on that gloomy Saturday afternoon. Mike is a PA at North Country Orthopedic Group. Sydney could be seen at the clinic two days later for further evaluation. She spent two agonizing days at home following Mike’s instructions "resting, ice to the knee, some compression and kept the injured knee elevated. Early on that Monday morning in May, Sydney had the appropriate x-rays, etc. to determine the extent of her injury. The MRI showed that the injury was severe. She had completely torn her right ACL and the meniscus in the same knee had been injured as well. Her case was referred to Dr. D. Peter Van Enenaam, MD. Surgery was scheduled for June 28th.
Sydney experienced many different feelings during the time she was awaiting surgery. She was placed on crutches and was instructed to rest the leg when possible. She was also referred for physical therapy at the North Country Orthopedic Group. Physical therapy at that point is designed to actually strengthen the knee prior to reconstructive surgery with the hope that post-surgical rehabilitation will be shortened . The various movements she performed, with her therapist Ally Vespa, helped strengthen the area around the injury, reduce the swelling, and prevent blood from accumulating around the injury. Following a few weeks of therapy Sydney remembers that the knee actually began to feel better! Pain and swelling had all but disappeared. This led to some false hope, "maybe I could return to playing." However, she was not able to cut or run properly, and there continued to be no stability in the knee. The reality was complete reconstructive surgery on the injured right knee. She was assured by her physical therapist that these types of feelings of wanting to compete are very normal.
Dr. "Van" repaired the meniscus "quite easily." The procedure to repair her ACL included Dr. Van harvesting a portion of her right hamstring tendon and grafting it in place of the damaged ligament. As I understand it, the tendon graft actually morphs into a new ligament in her knee. Of course, this takes several months to happen and for her knee to heal sufficiently. Sydney remembers that with the aid of crutches she was on her feet immediately after surgery. Again, she was referred to physical therapy, "three times a week." Although I am choosing to NOT describe the physical therapy with the word I would use, Sydney described it as grueling and very tedious. She was, though, very thankful she did everything she was asked to do and "the staff at PT were great."
Sydney's journey the next 8 months might have caused many athletes to step away from sports’, after all this can be very debilitating injury, emotionally and physically. However, Sydney wanted to remain active in sports. Although there were times she felt utter frustration due to the time it took for the injury to heal, for the most part she remained "very determined" according to her mom. Not feeling sorry for herself, or not once wanting to give up, she religiously attended all the physical therapy sessions and "followed all of my doctors orders." She admits that there was a lot of pain while performing the various tasks at therapy three times per week. Her mom describes her recovery, "She was a real trooper. She showed patience and determination to get healthy again." Coach Williams is proud of the way Sydney has gone about her rehab. When Sydney returned to lacrosse this season Coach noticed little, if any, difference in her physical ability to play her position. Coach Williams describes Sydney as an excellent passer, playing a position "where it is her job to get the ball to the cutters." Sydney "never complains about the knee to me." 'You will not get much out of Syd verbally" Coach Williams says. "Her leadership is in her actions, on and off the field." Coach Williams feels that her being a Sophomore at the time of the injury was not all bad. Sydney had just begun to be a starter and Coach feels this would have been much more difficult if she had been a three year starter and injured her knee as as senior.
When physical therapy ended Sydney was referred to Britton Athletics in Syracuse owned by Carthage native, Pat Britton. Pat's agency specializes in training athletes to be more fit and stronger no matter the sport. Pat says that early on he could tell that Sydney was quiet, but she was determined to improve the injured area and to, most importantly, become stronger and quicker overall. Pat conducted a basic evaluation. Following that Sydney was placed on an individual program "that is designed to have the injured athlete recover at their own pace." Pat develops benchmarks, or milestones, for each of the athletes he works with. When Sydney was able to achieve success in one specific area she would move on to another. Pat describes Sydney as "firey." Not verbally, but "you can see it in her eyes." She would take on the challenges of new movements or drills and it would not take long for her to show that she was comfortable doing the new things. She was able to meet and exceed her benchmarks easily and as a result of her incredible work ethic she has gotten stronger and quicker. "Sydney has been taught how to cut, stop, and start again differently than she had been doing." Pat feels that for Sydney specifically the workouts and training will help lessen the potential from this type of injury reoccurring. Interestingly, Pat shares that "this type of injury is not nearly as catastrophic as it was 10 years ago." She will continue with her conditioning at Britton Athletics throughout the summer.
If there is anything positive about the injury her parents feel it's that she worked hard at her school work during the "down" time. She currently carries a 94/95 average and is 25th in a class of 160. She is a member of the National Honor Society. Sydney learned a great deal from sitting with her teammates at games. She feels she is better passer in lacrosse from watching the game from the sideline and has a better vision of how the offence work as a unit. She has a better understanding of how to play her position from watching too. She attempted to return to basketball this past season. After a few games she, her parents and her Coach decided that she would be unable to continue. The hard surface and different cuts she needed to make caused a lot of pain and swelling. She will "miss basketball"; she will not play her senior season.
Those who assisted with this article described many different ways Sydney has displayed terrific leadership without saying too much. Coach Williams adds that she is "very simple." Meaning she has to say very little to Sydney. Sydney's work ethic is second to none, "she comes to work and is all business." She cannot remember a time she was not working harder than most at practice.
I have rarely been so impressed with a young athlete as Sydney. It is obvious that her parents have had much to do with assisting Sydney in her life, and of course the last 12 months or so with her rehab. Everyone I talked with mentioned how important the parents’ role in Sydney's overall development has been. I am not lost on the fact that Sydney has been the recipient of many awards. She is very humble and takes all of this in stride. This article, like most of those we do, is not neccesarily about accolades. This young women's story shares a very valuable lesson about the devastation of a debilitating injury and the proper way to work your way back. Sydney should be the role model for all young athletes who suffer any injury; there is a proper way to deal with it!!
I can share that when Sydney was asked about what the most important part of her recovery was? She would immediately respond "do what your surgeon and support staff tell you to do!
Thanks to Sydney and her parents for allowing me this time with all of you. Good luck Sydney!