Gymnast Ciara Charlick “bounces” back from ACL tear


Ciara Charlick poses behind the beam at the 2018 Jeanne Caruss Invitational, one year after her injury. (Photo by Maddie Kobylski)

Maddie Kobylski, Staff Writer

Any athlete’s worst nightmare is getting injured, something that could take them out of their favorite sport. There are many possible injuries athletes might encounter from the daily wear and tear on their bodies such as twisted ankles, shin splints, and muscle strains. While none these injuries are fun, one of the worst injuries an athlete could face is a torn ACL.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is responsible for preventing the tibia from sliding in front of the femur and stabilizing the knee by controlling its range of motion. An ACL tear is common in sports involving continuous changes of direction and speed. Landing is another factor that could lead to an ACL tear as well.

This was the case for senior Ciara Charlick, an active athlete on the Milford track and Huron Valley gymnastics teams. January 26, 2017 was the day that changed Charlick’s life forever. She warmed up for the vault event like usual, without knowing it would be the last warmup she would be able to participate in for the season.

“I was vaulting and was doing a skill called a half-full and during the full twist off of the vault, my feet landed while my upper body kept turning and the ligament between my tibia and femur snapped, along with the surrounding cartilage in my knee being torn,” Charlick recalls, “I was watching my legs as I landed and it curved out and popped…I was speechless because I knew something went so wrong because my knee started tingling immediately.”

For someone with a pretty high pain tolerance, Charlick couldn’t hide from the pain of this. She was carried to the trainer at the meet and was misdiagnosed with an overstretched hamstring. After waking up the following morning and being unable to put any weight on her leg, she knew it was more than an overstretched hamstring and immediately scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon and took an MRI to find out exactly what happened- a complete tear of her ACL.

On March 29, Charlick finally had surgery to reconstruct the ligament using a graft from her patellar tendon, located in her knee. After surgery, a nerve block, a form of anesthesia, was added. Daily tasks grew more difficult due to the inability to bend her left leg.

In school, Charlick returned in a wheelchair at first, weaving her way through the busy MHS hallways during passing time. A major help through these difficulties was her friend, senior Kylei McRee, who left class early to wheel her to class and eventually held her bags while she had crutches.

McRee found nothing but joy in assisting her friend when she needed it, saying, “It brought us closer together because I was with her through the ups and downs and we spent more time together. The little insignificant moments in the hallway meant so much to me; it was a time to laugh and bond as friends,” McRee said.

Charlick also received support from teammates who stopped at her house and brought her stuffed animals and cards, which made the whole situation so much better.

To begin the recovery process, Charlick attended physical therapy frequently for about seven months, working to strengthen the mobility of her knee and new tendon. She loved her physical therapists because they constantly encouraged her and made her laugh, distracting her from negative thoughts regarding her injury. Her time spent with her physical therapists impacted her life so much it led to her decision to pursue physical therapy as her future career.

What was special about Charlick’s injury was not the injury itself, but rather how she reacted to it. Anyone who knows Charlick notices her bubbly and optimistic personality. McRee can vouch for this, saying, “She always finds the good in the bad things that happen to her. Although she was bummed she couldn’t finish the season, she remained positive throughout the whole process, making it easier to help her.”

Being sidelined by an injury in a sport is hard for competitive athletes to accept, but Charlick used this as a learning experience. “It was eye opening. I wouldn’t change getting hurt because it put into perspective how important it is to have fun in high school sports because they’re supposed to be fun and to not think that you have to be perfect at everything you do,” Charlick admits.

This season is the comeback season; Charlick is back in the gym and ready to compete  again after recently being cleared to participate in sports again. “What was really hard was the meet before I got injured was the best meet I ever had. That right there was like my peak, and suddenly everything stopped and right now I’m trying to get back up to where I was before,” Charlick claims about her current progress.

It will take time to return back to the athlete she was before, but Charlick’s determination and positive attitude have allowed her to change this horrific injury into something that will help her in the future.

Make sure to come out and watch Huron Valley’s gymnastics team and see a bounce back like no other from Charlick!

Ciara Charlick poses behind the beam at the 2018 Jeanne Caruss Invitational, one year after her injury. (Photo by Maddie Kobylski)