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Erin Blank

Tokyo, Japan

As an athlete, I am used to pain and injuries. I was taught at a young age to play through the pain and endure as much as I could. However, when I was fifteen, a freshmen in high school at The American School in Japan, I began to feel discomfort in my right hip whenever I kicked a soccer ball, but I played through the pain. After making the varsity soccer team, the pain just kept getting worse. I went to physical therapy and several different doctors, but no one could tell me what was wrong or fix the pain. Although I have a high tolerance for pain, the pain became so unbearable I could barely walk home from my school bus stop. I was so excited to make the varsity soccer team, but because the pain was so bad I had to sit out almost the whole season. At the end of the season, my coach picked me to go to the Far East soccer tournament despite having been injured the whole season. I played almost every game, enduring excruciating pain. We ended up winning and becoming the number one team in the Far East, but I could barely walk after tournament. That summer I went to Hospital for Special Surgery and we finally, after so many other doctors, found out what was wrong with me. I had an impingement with my femoral head and hip socket. Dr. Sink told me that my options were, one, he could perform a surgical hip dislocation and fix the impingement, and I would have a 6-8 month recovery, or, two, I could stop playing sports. Being such a physical person and a two sport varsity athlete, I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of not being able to do the things I love for the rest of my life. So my family and I decided that I would have the surgery. I had the operation on July 25th, 2013. The surgery went smoothly, and I was hardly in any pain. I stayed in the hospital for three nights, the shortest time any girl with that surgery had stayed in the hospital. When I got home from the hospital I sat on the couch for two weeks, practically immobile. I wasn't accustomed to sitting around all day and not being on my feet and doing things. I was determined to get back on my feet and to stop sitting around all day. I worked on my exercises as much as I could. Because I live in Japan, it was more difficult to find physical therapists who would be able to help me with my rehabilitation. When we connected with great therapists from Australia, I started PT three-four times a week. I was committed to the idea of playing soccer that Spring and to living my active life. After three months, I was off crutches, and I finally felt like I was making progress. From then on it was my mission to start running which happened after 7 months. I thought my recovery would only take 6 months but it took almost 9 months until I was finally cleared to play contact sports. I was able to play on the varsity soccer team that spring. I played every minute of every game. In the Far East soccer tournament, I scored the winning penalty kick that got my team to the finals for the fourth year in a row. In that moment, I was the happiest I had been since before my surgery. I realized how fortunate I was to have had such a successful surgery and great rehabilitation. Although We ended up losing in penalty kicks for the championship, I can't express how elated I was to be on that field and with my team. it was disappointing that we lost, but I was so proud that I made it so far from my surgery. This past fall, I made the varsity tennis team again, and my team won the Far East tournament. Although I still have to work on my conditioning and strengthening of my hip, it feels so rewarding to be able to do the things I love without any pain.