The Collegian
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Soccer goalie determined to save her career with rehab

It was her junior year of high school and Allie Albright had just finished her leg of the 800 meter when her left leg locked and panic set in.

Down on the track, athletic trainers, teammates and parents around her desperately tried to release her clenched muscles and relax her leg.

But it was too stiff. No one could even get it to move. This was the beginning of a four-year battle for the University of Richmond sophomore that no one could have seen coming.

After Thanksgiving break some might have noticed her around campus with her left hip braced and immobile. You might have noticed her after winter break back on crutches, but this time it was her right hip that was braced and immobile.

Albright's hip sockets are tilted slightly out of the natural plane, which caused an abnormal amount of friction in her joints. Movements that wouldn't bother a person with properly positioned hip sockets caused Albright pain. Her athletic lifestyle made things even worse.

On Nov. 1, Albright had surgery on her left hip at the Howard Stern Clinic in Colorado. Doctors shaved down part of her femur, femoral head and neck, reconstructed her labrum using her illiotibial (IT) band and released her groin muscle, she said.

Eight weeks later she flew back to Colorado where she says doctors once again shaved down part of her femur, femoral head and neck, re-anchored her labrum in three places and did microfracture surgery on deteriorated cartilage on her right hip.

Albright says she must give herself a shot for 40 days to fight blood clots and inflammation, sit in a CPM machine that manually moves her leg up and down to fight scar tissue build up and activate surrounding muscles and wear air compression pumps around her calves anytime she is sitting in her room to further decrease the chance for blood clots.

After she has completed all of those things and she is ready to go to sleep, she straps herself in what sounds like a straight jacket for her legs. She slips on what she jokingly calls foam booties and places a solid log of foam between her legs and straps herself in using Velcro.

In the morning, when she gets up, it takes the combined effort of Albright and her roommate, sophomore Leigh Anne Baxter, to remove the Velcro from around her legs.

But even through all the adversity, the last thing Albright says she wants is to be pitied. She will always appreciate when someone holds the door for her or helps her with her tray in the dining hall, but there is only one thing on Albright's mind as she bops around campus: soccer.

"The thought of not putting on cleats again is just comical to me," Albright said. Since she can remember she knew she wanted to play soccer in college and that dream continues even after four hip surgeries since March of her junior year of high school.

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Albright's father is also her head coach here at Richmond. It's been hard for him to watch his daughter battle through the injuries, Peter Albright says, but he knows she is following her dreams.

"I know for Allie, she wouldn't trade in this opportunity now in order to save her health for anything later," he said. "She wants to do this so I am going to support her."

Like many of the other athletes on the team, coach Albright worries about long-term health issues his daughter will have, but it's all part of being an athlete, he said.

"I feel really good about [my daughter's future health]," he said "Later in life she may have issues, but many of our girls will and technology is always getting better."

When Albright arrived for soccer pre-season training the summer before her freshman year, all she wanted to do was make it through the season. But as summer turned to fall, Albright realized her collegiate soccer dreams would be put on hold.

Her right hip had started to deteriorate quickly and she had to make the hardest call an athlete has to make: When is the pain too much to stop playing? For Albright, she says playing wasn't the problem; it was the day-to-day discomfort that forced her to stop playing.

"There's literally a mental block where you can fight through the pain, but it's the aftermath," she said. "When you are sitting in class with tears in your eyes because of the pain that's not all right."

Albright was forced to have surgery and didn't accomplish her goal of making it through the season, but worked herself all the way back. The day she met with the doctor to clear her to return to soccer fully she says the process started all over again. It was now the other hip that needed surgery.

Why does Albright put herself through this? What has soccer done for her except land her back on the operating table time and again?

"I just have an intense love for not only the game of soccer, but for an active lifestyle," she said.

Albright's toughness is undeniable and her perseverance hasn't gone unnoticed.

"Most people would have thrown in the towel after four hip surgeries before the age of 20," Baxter said. Seeing Albright battle back to full health was inspiring and impressive, she said.

For the first time in several years Albright will return to the field healthy this summer. She hopes to be playing with no restrictions by June 1, she says, and when she steps back onto the field, her younger brother Timmy, a high school senior soccer player, will be waiting.

"She's so dedicated and focused on getting better," Timmy said. "She's the hardest worker ever."

The last time Timmy could remember playing with his sister was four years ago in middle school, and back then it was much more than just a workout, he said.

"We worked out, but we also talked about life," he said. "It was bonding time for us and we lost a lot of time doing that in high school because Allie was hurt so often."

Albright is a goalkeeper and her brother is a forward.

"He's already talking trash about how hard he is going to push me," she said.

"A week after surgery, my doctor looked me in the eyes and guaranteed that I would play soccer again," she said. "After literally years of people telling me there wasn't any hope. Now that was absolutely incredible. And it will happen. I will play again."

This version ADDS information about Albright's hip condition to the fifth paragraph.

Contact Collegian reporter Rachael Bilney at rachael.bilney@richmond.edu

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