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Recently I began playing Indoor Soccer after a two-year hiatus. It was a long road back after an extensive knee surgery and then a sprained ankle.

December 2012 I went in for a fairly routine meniscus clean up. The night before my surgery I had played in a soccer game and told my team I would be back in two weeks. I was planning on walking out of the hospital and biking in 3 days and being back on the field in two weeks. It was a minor meniscus tear and would be a quick recovery.

I remember waking up in the hospital after surgery and the surgeon telling me that nothing went as planned. When he got into my knee he found some extensive damage to my cartilage. He performed a microfracture surgery to repair the cartilage. This surgery consists of drilling several holes into my femur and allowing the bone to bleed out and scab over my cartilage. I am not a Dr, so I don’t know all of the science behind this surgery. Cartilage doesn’t have a lot of white blood cells to heal the cartilage properly, so they bleed out and scab over the cartilage to provide the necessary cells to heal.

Due to being reliant on a scab to heal, I was crushed when the Dr told me I needed to be non-weight bearing for nearly two months. After the initial two months, it was a tough road of rehab trying to get the strength back in my leg. I went to a physical therapist several times a week and she worked my butt off. It was painful and it was very hard. I wasn’t cleared to play soccer until 6 months after my surgery.

I was so excited to get back on the field and start playing again. I started playing a couple times a week and my knee was very weak. I knew I wasn’t even close to where I was before surgery, but I continued playing in hopes it would continue to get stronger. Three weeks into playing I was guarding a guy and he cut without me realizing it and I stepped on his foot and severely sprained my ankle. I was back on crutches for about a week and then back to rehab and recovery. This time it was a lot harder. Emotionally it took a lot out of me to get hurt so quickly after.

I began to doubt myself, wondering if I should just give up trying to play soccer again. I was 31 and I knew guys nearly twice my age still playing, so the thought of me giving it up so young hurt. I was not in the best shape when I had my surgery, but I could hold my own in a soccer game. I didn’t gain a lot of weight during the six months after my surgery, but after I tore up my ankle I gained about 20 pounds in two years. It was a rough couple of years for our family outside of my injuries. We lost our 18-month-old son and my wife battled melanoma. I will write about how those events affected my weight in another post, but needless to say it was a very rough patch that saw me gain a lot of excess pounds.

So, here I am. I am lucky to have a brother that was on my team that never gave up on me. He would ask me to play constantly, always encouraging me in my journey to get back. When I had given up on myself, I knew he expected me to play again. This kept me going and I finally agreed to give it a try again. I wanted to lose some more weight before I started playing, but I knew if I kept putting it off it may never happen. I agreed to jump back on the team and I have been playing soccer for the last two months. I am so grateful to be on a supportive team that understands my quick subs. I am grateful they have played with me before so they know my potential and are willing to help me get my form back.

I have lost 13 pounds since I started playing again. It has been some of the hardest games I have ever played. I think I have pulled muscles in every leg in my body. You can train on a treadmill, but nothing compares to playing a game and getting the competitive spirit going again. There is no way to train for that. You go up against someone and you are trying to beat them to a ball and you push harder than you do anywhere else. This is not the greatest for easing back into sports.

The first several weeks my calves were cramping up every week. I would stretch all week trying to loosen them up and get them ready. I was chugging water and eating bananas every day in hopes it would help. Nothing was working for me. Every week I was fighting through cramps in my calves. Finally, I found BeVisible Calf Compression Sleeves on Amazon and decided to give them a try. I wear them under my shinguards and they have saved my legs. My calves went from cramping up every week to not having a single cramp when I wear my sleeves. They are amazing and I would recommend them to anyone trying to get back into workouts after some time off. If you are having problems with your calf, get them and save your legs!

It is a long process, but every week I am losing more weight and feeling better. I have been able to score a few goals and sometimes I feel like I am contributing to the team. I do feel like a liability at times, so it has been nice to be able to sub quickly and re-group.

I love playing soccer and although it was a long road recovering from microfracture surgery, it will be well worth the work in the end. I will get back in shape and be a regular contributor to my team again. I hope to keep playing for a long time to come and I know if that is to happen I have to push right now to get back in shape so I can stay on the field.