Emma Ingersoll-Weng sits on the training table in the West High athletic training room on Feb. 22. (Owen Aanestad)
Emma Ingersoll-Weng sits on the training table in the West High athletic training room on Feb. 22.

Owen Aanestad

What It Feels Like: Tearing your ACL

Starting point guard for West High’s girls basketball team, Emma Ingersoll-Weng ‘22, opens up about her two ACL tears during her high school career. This entire article is written in the first person narrative of Ingersoll-Weng.

March 3, 2022

Summer after freshman year: The first tear

I was playing summer Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball for All Iowa Attack. During the fourth quarter, we were up by twelve points and we had six players. I played the whole game, but I got injured bringing the ball up the court. I planted my right leg to pass the ball and felt and heard a loud pop. I just collapsed to the ground clutching my knee and it was locked in place. I couldn’t move it and the trainer had to run on the court as well as the director of my AAU program. They had to straighten my leg out, which was extremely painful, and then I had to be carried off the court.

Emma Ingersoll-Weng ’22 looks to score against Linn-Mar on Dec. 22, 2020. (Owen Aanestad)

I’d never experienced anything like this. I didn’t have a lot of information on anterior circulate ligament (ACL) tears. I felt worried and scared because a lot of my injuries have never been like this. I’ve had a lot of concussions but the recovery time is a week which is not that long. This injury was like, “Oh well I could be out for a year, I could be out for six weeks.” I think I was mentally disturbed and frustrated that all my hard work was going down the drain. I had to be set back 12, 13 months.

It was really hard and painful to miss my sophomore school season. I was supposed to be the starting point-guard as a sophomore, and I had to watch somebody else take on that role. It was really frustrating for me because during my freshman year, I was on and off. I did have varsity starting time, but I didn’t do as well just because of my confidence. It was really, really hard to be out my whole sophomore year. During that time, my ranking dropped a lot and I wasn’t able to get as many college offers. The looks that I had from Division 1 colleges went away because I was out for so long. Due to COVID-19, they stopped recruiting a lot of my graduating class. I wasn’t able to perform and show colleges what I could offer them.

It was heartbreaking to realize I was wrong about my strength.

— Emma Ingersoll-Weng '22

I shied away from everybody socially after my tear, and I didn’t talk to people on my team. I was a very angry person because I was missing a big opportunity. I had to see all the college coaches come to my teammate’s games and watch them instead of me. I was really happy for them, but at the same time, I was very angry about that. I did not want to be there at all and watch them play. It was very hard to see anybody else on the court. I thought I wasn’t going to get any offers or looks from college coaches, and that I had basically failed myself and my parents because I was the first kid in my family going somewhere and doing something with their life. I felt like I ruined that chance I had. I thought it was my fault even though it wasn’t. 

After I recovered from my first ACL tear, I had to work on my confidence and not being so worried about re-injuring it. I just had to go out on the court and have fun. I was still worried about re-tearing it, but I felt more sure of myself just because of how hard I had worked in the off-season and while being injured. I felt like I was more confident and wasn’t at risk for injury because I made myself stronger.

It was heartbreaking to realize I was wrong about my strength. Re-injury was gonna happen either way just because my joints are looser compared to others. 

Winter of senior season: The second tear

We were playing against Liberty High and two minutes into the game, I got bumped by the person dribbling. I hyperextended my left leg while I was in the air, then I landed on it while it was hyperextended. I felt a snap in the back of my knee and I collapsed to the ground. I couldn’t get up at all. It felt like I got the wind knocked out of me. It felt like my leg was broken at first. I was on the ground for about 5, 10 minutes with the coaches and the trainers because I couldn’t stand up or breathe and then we walked off the court.

Emma Ingersoll-Weng ’22 celebrates with her teammates against Davenport North during the substate final game on Feb. 23, 2021. (Owen Aanestad)

I was really scared. I was yelling at the coaches to come over because I knew that something was wrong. But I pushed the thought of having torn my ACL into the back of my head. I really wanted to believe that it was a sprain and not another ACL tear. I was more hopeful, but I feel like I knew that I tore my ACL. I argued with my surgeon and Sheila, West High’s athletic trainer, because I wanted to get back on the court. They yelled at me and told me I was not allowed to play the rest of the game. Over the next couple of days, my knee gradually got worse. I knew my ACL was torn because my injury wasn’t getting any better.

When I went out of the game, our team kind of deflated and it was a really tough, intense game. We ended up winning by three points. I think when I got injured it shocked our team because they didn’t know how to respond to a big player going out at the time, but they ended up doing really well.

The team dynamic has changed because there is a lack of someone filling the leadership role that I had on the court. There’s not really a big leader on the team. I think individual people are trying to step up, but then there’s other people who want to be the leader. It’s hard because of that, but they’ve adapted pretty well.

I just can’t be there for my teammates the way they want me to because I’m dealing with something much greater.

— Emma Ingersoll-Weng '22

I just can’t be there for my teammates the way they want me to because I’m dealing with something much greater. I would love to be there, but I just can’t. The team doesn’t really need a leader or another cheerleader from the bench when they have coaches and other people. I kind of feel like an outsider now. I go into these spirals where I don’t talk to anybody for a while. I ignore everybody and snap at people. Just because… well this is my senior year. 

I don’t really know what I want to do anymore, but I’m probably gonna stick with basketball all four years of college. I mean, there’s a risk of re-tearing either ACL, but I don’t think I can be done with basketball. It’s all I’ve ever known and done since I was three years old and it’s a part of me even though I have a love-hate relationship with basketball. I just need to continue sticking with it through this, because overall I enjoy what I do.

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