ACL injury gives Gig Harbor senior new appreciation for athletics

Guard Katy Larson overcoming mental, physical roadblocks in return to basketball court

Staff writerJuly 9, 2014 

Gig Harbor High School senior Katy Larson suffered a torn ACL one year ago, as evidenced by the surgery scar here on her left knee. Larson is still in the process of rehabbing the injury, coming back both physically and mentally.


Last summer, Gig Harbor High senior Katy Larson was going up for a layup toward the end of a summer league game when an opponent from another team took her out.

“She basically tackled me,” Larson said. “I don’t think it was accidental.”

The Tides were losing by about 15 points, making the perceived cheap shot even more unnecessary. The hit would change the trajectory of her junior year dramatically. She went down hard on her left leg.

“I heard a pop, I felt (my knee) bend,” Larson said.

The injury, as she would find out a week later, was a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus and in her left knee.

“I didn’t really know what it meant,” Larson said. “I’ve only heard about ACL tears, and heard they’re so bad. I didn’t really it hit me that I couldn’t play basketball that whole year.”

Larson had surgery soon after the injury and began her rehab about a month after that, in mid-August. She went to rehab three times a week, usually, for about eight months at Northwest Sports Physical Therapy in uptown Gig Harbor.

The senior started slow, strengthening the muscles around the knee with basic stretches and exercises. Toward the middle to the end of rehab, she began working on more difficult tasks such as squatting, lunging, jumping and balancing. For example, to work on her balance, the trainer would have Larson stand on her left leg and pass the basketball. Physically, getting her quad strength back was the most difficult part of rehab, Larson said.

Larson sat patiently on the sidelines during the season, watching her teammates play while she continued to work her way back.

“It was pretty tough but it was kind of good,” Larson said. “It showed me a different side of the team in basketball, cheering on your teammates.”

For people who suffer ACL tears, overcoming the mental roadblock is often an even bigger component than the physical aspect of the rehab. Larson can relate.

“I had a point where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want to play basketball anymore. What if it happened again?’” Larson said. “That’s one of the toughest things. You can’t be scared and can’t quit. My knee is probably stronger than it was before, it just doesn’t seem like it because of that fear.”

Getting past that fear is an ongoing process — one which will only improve with time and practice.

“After playing in summer league, I’m a lot more confident with it,” Larson said. “When I play, I don’t really think. I’ll drive to the basket and now I can see that I’m OK.”

Larson said she feels like her knee is around 80 percent of full health, and mentally, she’s still somewhere around 50 or 60. As she continues to work and play, the mental side of it should climb as the season approaches. The experience has given her a newfound gratitude for her athletic ability and health.

“I have a new appreciation for basketball and sports in general,” Larson said. “I won’t take that for granted. A lot of people aren’t able to sports or do that kind of stuff. Even though I was only out for eight months, I got a little slice of that. It makes you appreciate it.”

Jon Manley: 253-358-4151 Twitter: @gateway_jon

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