Cleared to play, athlete reconstructs a career

Fred McCormick

Her competitive nature is the driving force behind her success athletically, so the irony of suffering a severe knee injury in an exhibition game last year was not lost on Owen senior Livie Presley.

Just weeks into her junior year, while reaching for a flag in a Powderpuff football game, Presley suffered precisely the injury athletes generally fear the most - a blown knee.

“When I got out of the car that morning, my dad told me ‘don’t blow out your knee,’” Presley said, recalling the day she tore the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and Patella tendon in her left knee.

“It happened so fast,” she said of the moment she felt the pop in her joint. “It only took half a second.”

Doctors informed Presley that her injury was particularly severe and surgery would be performed to use ligaments from her right knee to repair the torn ligaments in her damaged knee. The news was not a surprise.

“When I did it (injured the knee), I had a feeling,” she said. “I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to play softball, and my dad was going to be mad.”

Her intuition proved to be correct - she ended up missing the remainder of the fall volleyball season, as well as basketball in the winter and softball in the spring. The rehabilitation of the leg was long and painful.

“It was really difficult right after surgery,” Presley said. “Coming out of surgery, I had a brace on each of my legs for a few days. It was so painful.”

Presley struggled to bend her knee at all following the surgery, she said. The projected six to seven months before she would likely be able to resume running felt overwhelming.

“It was really hard because I had to do everything really slowly and all I wanted to do was go, go, go,” she said. “My mind was moving a whole lot faster than my body was.”

As she gained strength in her knee, Presley doubled down on therapy.

“Once I was cleared to start running, I was running every single day,” she said. “I did a lot of therapy.”

Presley rehabbed her knee during scheduled therapy sessions and with Crystal Shirk, the Southeastern Sports Medicine trainer at Owen. She was cleared by her doctor to resume all physical activities in June.

“I was so happy,” Presley said. “Everything in my life was so much better. I was really upset when I got hurt, so when I was able to return to sports it was like I was less stressed.”

Presley’s ability to participate in workouts and practice has been positive for the team, said Tia Vasko, assistant coach on the varsity program last year.

“Livie’s Livie. There is nobody else like her,” Vasko said. “She is one of the leaders on this team, and she’s definitely capable of motivating her teammates.”

Presley’s ability to rally those around her will be valuable on a team that she believes has some of the best freshmen talent that she has seen.

“I would like to see us win more this year, and we have so many young girls coming up that are so talented, it blows my mind,” she said. “I think that a lot of the girls that have tried out this year will end up getting called up (to varsity) and really help us out.”

As a senior, Presley will likely have a complex role on each of her teams. After a year away, she hopes to earn playing time and be a positive influence.

“I think all of my teammates like me, and I know a lot of them respect me,” she said. “But I didn’t even play basketball and softball last year, so I know that I’m going to have to earn some respect.”