Submitted by Bethel Athletics

Scarred knees, stubborn soul

Bethel volleyball player keeps coming back from season-ending injuries.

By Maddie DeBilzan | Royal Report

Volleyball player Maddie Christy refuses to give up her passion despite multiple knee injuries.

Maddie Christy, 16, stared out of the grey suburban window with tear-stained cheeks. The all-too-familiar pop of her knee looped through her mind in a perpetual playlist, echoed by the pang in her chest and the rock in her stomach.

One split second. The ratio seemed unfair. One faulty step qualified for more than six months of dependence and recovery… Again.

Christy showed up for the first week of basketball practice reluctantly. Her true passion lied within volleyball, not basketball, but her friends on the team persuaded her to play another year. And since she didn’t even make it past the fifth day of practice before tearing her ACL the previous year, she decided to give it another shot.

This time, however, she didn’t even make it past the second day. It happened in the same drill, with the same feeling as in the previous year. Pop. She knew right away.

Shock ensued as her closest friends and family members became aware of the injury.

“Her dad and I had to go pick up Maddie’s car from the parking lot and we just cried. We started asking those ‘why’ questions because we knew we had another long road ahead,” Michelle Christy, her mom, said.

Christy began the slow process of recovery and physical therapy, constrained by a bulky black knee brace for most of the school year. Pity became more of an annoyance than a source of comfort. She just wanted to be back to normal again. Aside from MOC-Floyd Valley High School’s “fake-an-injury-day”, in which classmates hobbled around on crutches, navigated the halls with wheelchairs, and asked people to sign their fake casts, Christy’s seemingly chronic limp always stood out among the crowd.

“That was kind of an upsetting day for me. Everyone else got to take their handicaps off at the end of the day and run around, but I couldn’t. It was my reality,” Christy said.

But she continued to fix her eyes on one goal: being able to play volleyball again. For six months she walked up the same steps to her physical therapist and performed the same mundane exercises underneath the same popcorn ceiling. However, she refused to allow her far-from-ideal situation to stop her from getting back on the court.

“I remember when Maddie and her mom came in right after the second surgery. I could tell by her body language that she was bumming out, but I could also tell that she was bound and determined to overcome it,” John Groszkreutz, Christy’s physical therapist, said.

After another grueling off-season of healing and regaining strength, Christy was able to lace up her shoes, strap on her two knee braces, and take up the volleyball court. She dove onto the wooden gym floor, she planted her feet, she jumped as high as she could. She performed every motion as if both her knees weren’t painstakingly sewn back together.

But her knees couldn’t catch a break.

Halfway through the season, she planted her right foot into the ground to chase the ball and…pop. Her knee didn’t cooperate.

Thankfully, her ACL wasn’t torn again, but her meniscus was. This called for another trip to the Lysol-smelling, white-walled Sioux Land Surgical Center and another round of physical therapy sessions. But still, she wanted to make it back — she wanted to play again. Unlike the time Christy refused to create a Facebook profile simply because her parents had guidelines regarding the account, this situation proved her stubborn spirit to be very beneficial. Even after three major knee injuries, it never crossed her mind to hang up her volleyball jersey for good.

“I didn’t think fear of another injury should be what would stop me,” said Christy. “I love volleyball, so I want to play as much as I can for as long I’m able.”

Christy bounced back from her third knee injury after a few weeks and began playing volleyball again, making the decision to continue her athletic career in college. She can be easily identified on the Bethel University court by her dark, curly hair and the scars on her knees.

And although fear doesn’t stop her from playing, she still thinks about that overt pop every day. She just doesn’t listen to it. She trumps that fear every time she leaps from her left leg to spike the ball and every time her knees take the brunt of the fall as she dives to make a save.