Defying the odds

Published 9:05 pm Saturday, December 29, 2012

A severe knee injury threatened Erica Alligood’s senior year but the Pam Pack athlete has beaten the odds and found her way back on the basketball court. (WDN Photo/Brian Haines)

After sustaining a severe knee injury the doctors told Erica Alligood that she wouldn’t be able to play golf for six months. She was ready in three and participated on a Washington team that placed 11th in the state.
The same doctors told her basketball was out of the question for at least nine months. Five months later Alligood and her knee brace were at tryouts.
You can’t blame the doctors for their miscalculations. While they could examine the tear in her left anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus and analyze the bone fracture in that same knee, they just haven’t built a machine yet that could determine Alligood’s competitive fire and desire to play sports.
It was a sweltering spring night when the five-foot-two-inch mixture of blood, sweat and tears closed her eyes with hopes of a good night’s rest and reduced swelling in her left knee. She awoke disappointed on two fronts.
Earlier in the day the Washington junior hurt that knee during the Pam Pack soccer team’s final home match of the year against West Craven as she collided with an opposing player chasing after the ball.
“I was going down the sideline and I was running head on with another girl and I went to kick the ball and the impact hurt my plant knee,” Alligood said. “I heard it pop twice then I was rolling on the ground … I thought my whole knee broke when it happened.”
Despite the pain and inability to walk, Alligood decided to put off a trip to the hospital with hopes that a little sleep and some ibuprofen would serve as a cure all for her ailing. However, on that steamy spring night her air conditioning proved to be as faulty as her limb, forcing the junior to try to sleep off the pain outside on her porch.
The next morning the sun rose and so did the swelling. After a trip to the doctor’s office she was informed that she had torn her ACL and lateral meniscus and sustained a bone fracture.
For Alligood, who stars on the Washington golf, soccer, basketball and tennis teams, the news hit hard and threatened to wipeout her upcoming senior year.
“I didn’t think I would be able to play golf till maybe the last game of the season and I didn’t think I would be able to play basketball at all,” Alligood said.
The standard recovering time on a torn ACL is nine months but there is nothing standard about Alligood, who looks forward to challenges the same way children do Christmas morning.
“I think she felt when she got injured – like we all did – that her senior year, athletically speaking, was probably not going to happen,” Washington basketball coach and athletic director Allison Jones said. “But once she was diagnosed they immediately gave her a goal and rehab information and she just took it and ran with it and that speaks to who Erica is as a competitor, a hard worker and a player.”
With coordinates in hand, Alligood immediately began working toward her destination.
“I trained really hard in rehab. I did everything they told me to do and did workouts at home by myself,” Alligood said. “They told me the faster I got through rehab the faster I would be able to play sports, so I got through rehab pretty fast.
“A the very beginning of it, it was frustrating because I had to wait a certain amount of time before I could do certain things. … But I was able to get off crutches in about three to four weeks.”
They rehab process was no doubt filled with pain and suffering, but the only thing harder for Alligood was having to stay off the basketball court.
“I remember Erica trying to jump in on some shoot-around games in the gym,” Washington basketball coach Allison Jones said. “She would sneak in on one leg like we wouldn’t notice the one-legged girl. We had to constantly tell her to get off the floor but we knew she would try again.”
When the day finally came that Alligood did not have to sneak on the court she took her clearance letter from the doctor and sprinted to Washington High School like Willy Wonka with his golden ticket.
“She didn’t even wait till practice that afternoon,” Jones said. “She doesn’t have a first period class and doesn’t have to be in school till about 10 a.m. but she was here first period with that letter in hand saying, ‘Look, I can play today.”
Alligood, who now plays about 10 minutes per game for the Pam Pack basketball team, estimates her knee is currently at 90 percent and is working toward gaining more minutes as well as clearance for the upcoming soccer season. The doctors told her it would be at least nine months before she could get back on the pitch, but they have been known to make miscalculations.