Trauma on the Field 

By Latrice Williams 

When an athlete takes the field, the adrenaline rush from getting ready to square off against their opponent is the only thing on their mind. But in an instant, the game you love to play can become a painstaking memory. For Anthony Kestler, that feeling is all too familiar. The defender for the May River soccer team in Bluffton, S.C. has endured not one, but two ACL tears. And still, he’s found a way to preserve through it all and plans to play his senior season. During a summer league game with his club team GPS Elite, Kestler suffered the first of his two ACL tears in the region championship game.

“It was terrible [and so was] the pain post-surgery,” said Kestler. “It was mentally draining - all my friends continuing playing soccer and me missing out sucked. Once I finally got over that and started playing again, it all happens again.”

Kestler then suffered another ACL tear, this time in the semi-final match-up against one of the state’s most dominant athletic programs – Bishop England. Thankfully, the second time around was less grueling, but still, the rehab process hasn’t change. Kestler stays determined to face the daily grind of rigorous treatment.

“[The second time] I went down in the beginning of the game, but the coaches and everyone thought it wasn’t that serious and then my knee gave out again,” said Kestler. “They didn’t realize it was a torn ACL. I still played in the finals. They didn’t find out about it until the summer. The first time was more painful because I tore more than just my ACL. I tore my ACL, my MCL and another ligament.”  

As a defender, Kestler has no choice but to be aggressive, so there’s not many precautionary measures he can take. Kestler admitted he went back and forth as to whether or not he would play again, but finally refused to hang up his cleats. As he prepares to vie for a consecutive state title, Kestler is reminded of the game he loves. And although he’s currently rehabbing from his second ACL tear, he can’t get enough of the game he loves and encourages anyone recovering from a serious injury to be patient throughout the healing process, mentally and physically. And if the love you have for the game far exceeds the fear and trauma, you’ll prevail.

“[At first], I played six or seven games,” said Kestler. “I didn’t play that much. I played 10 minutes or 15 minutes and then when I felt comfortable, I played a couple games for an entire game. [It takes a lot to recover]. It really matters how much the game means to you. It’s definitely a lot to go through.”