PITTSFIELD — The chances are good that you have heard about a recent string of ACL injuries among professional athletes.
Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Rob Gronkowski, Adrian Peterson and Mariano Rivera are just a few pros who have missed significant time to this ailment.
However, this particular injury has also made itself known locally.
Last summer, while playing with the Berkshire Force softball team in the Babe Ruth World Series, Mt. Greylock star Miranda Voller suffered an ACL injury, missing the remainder of the tournament.
A few months later, two more of her Force teammates would find themselves in the same situation.
Kayla Kowalczyk and Kacey Sondrini have been dealing with the recovery process of an ACL injury for months. The two played together on the Force last summer, but not long after that season ended, found themselves laid up when one of their knees gave out.
For Kowalczyk, Wahconah Soccer’s starting goalkeeper, the injury happened on the field last fall. For Sondrini, a soccer, basketball and softball starter at St. Joseph, the injury occurred on Nov. 1, during the Pigskin Classic.
Sondrini was taking part in this powder-puff-like competition, where high school girls play flag football. Representing the Crusaders, Sondrini was competing against Pittsfield High and Taconic.
“We were in the championship game, and we were going to win if we got the ball back,” said Sondrini. “And that was when I tore my ACL. I got tackled and it snapped. I was worried I tore my meniscus again.”
The rising junior had some experience with leg injuries in the past, having torn her meniscus during soccer season her freshman year. After making a full recovery from that injury, she was a key piece on St. Joseph’s basketball team and then the starting catcher and leadoff hitter on the playoff-bound Crusaders’ softball team.
The meniscus was a manageable recovery. The ACL would not be as brief.
“I talked to one doctor and they said it would be six-to-nine months, you have all this rehab and surgery and there are three options for the surgery,” said Sondrini. “We went and got another opinion from another doctor, who said six months would be the extent of rehab, and then I could work into sports.”
Sondrini wouldn’t be lucky enough to be back by basketball, or even softball season. She spent both on the sidelines. During basketball, she could be seen in the crowd mostly, with a bench seat being too dangerous with loose balls or players. She lost the crutches for softball season, and was actually able to practice some with her teammates, taking grounders and working on her upper body.
June 15 was Sondrini’s final day of physical therapy. Kowalczyk’s was May 20.
After sitting out the entire regular season and Western Mass quarterfinal win over South Hadley, the Wahconah Softball’s power-hitting third baseman made her first appearance for the Warriors in the semifinals at UMass.
“It has been like eight months, and it felt pretty good to get back out there,” said Kowalczyk after the Warrior’s semifinal win. “I made the decision to play Sunday.”
She was in Dustin Belcher’s lineup as a designated hitter on Thursday afternoon for the semifinal win over Southwick, and again Saturday, June 13, in the finals against Hampshire.
“It wasn’t really tough. I was just really happy with how our team played this year,” said Kowalczyk of missing nearly the entire spring. “I was really happy to be a part of it at the end.”
The three former Force players have been in touch about their injuries, trading advice and information on recovery and rehab.
“My friend Miranda Voller, who played on the Force, she tore it before and she was one of the first people I texted,” said Sondrini. “I asked her things about who did her surgery, where she went for rehab, and I actually went to the surgeon she told me about, at the children’s hospital in Boston.”
Both Kowalczyk and Sondrini rehabbed at Berkshire Sports and Physical Therapy. Sondrini worked with Alice Nichols, while Kowalczyk put time in with Brian Duquette. Both spoke glowingly about the process they went through.
“My physical therapist, Brian Duquette, was great,” said Kowalczyk. “He really pushed me a lot, doing squats, running and all that stuff. I owe a lot to him.”
“[Nichols] worked me really hard, but I thank her for it, because now I’m going to be ready to go back into sports,” added Sondrini.
Both feel as though they benefited from being young and in shape at the time of their injuries.
“I feel like it is a lot easier to recover, because you are already in good shape from being so young, and then being able to just keep going,” said Sondrini. “I feel like you recover faster and then you can keep working to get stronger.”
Sondrini will be taking the summer off from the Force, working towards soccer season in the fall.