Allen’s desire to get back
by Matthew Ondesko, Owner/Publisher
George Mason’s Izzy Allen was living the life. The Rochester, NY native started every game during her freshman season, and she was expected to make a big impact for year to come.
That impact would have to wait just a little awhile. After her freshman season, Covid hit the world. What made things a little more miserable for Allen was the fact that she was dealing with a nagging shoulder injury.
Not knowing exactly what was wrong in the beginning, Allen would try to play through the pain. After some further test, the injury was a lot worse than she thought. The injury ended up being a torn rotator cuff that would wipe away her season.
Sitting on the bench and not playing wasn’t exactly what Allen wanted to do. She is a competitor and not being able to help her team on the field was eating her up inside. It did allow her to watch the game more.
She almost became a second coach on the sidelines. She was able to study the game - and see it from a different perspective. It also gave her the desire to get back on the field.
“During my freshman year, I was fortunate to start every game. I felt my hard work had paid off and it was a great start to my college athletic career. After that lacrosse season was cut short due to Covid, I had hoped to pick up where I left off in my sophomore year,” stated Allen. “Between getting Covid early in the season and finding out my lingering shoulder pain was actually a torn rotator cuff and labral tear; my sophomore season was lost. I was devastated. Furthermore, given the prognosis, I was potentially going to miss my junior year. Sitting on the sidelines last year was very frustrating.However, it gave me a chance to watch the games and learn from the sidelines. Furthermore, it intensified my desire to get on the field as soon as possible.”
Her intensity to get back on the field only was enhanced further during her rehab stints. Before she opted for surgery, Allen though she could rehab the injury through intense physical therapy. Allen would grind through the daily torture of rehab hoping to get back on the field.
Allen would do everything she needed to do to try and get back on the field that spring. But, something just wasn’t right. The injury never healed and that’s when they did the MRI.
“Initially my shoulder injury occurred in the fall. I thought I would be able to rehab it through extensive physical therapy and treatment,” stated Allen. “I kept training and rehabbing throughout the fall and eventually made my way back onto the field. However, the pain wasn’t going away and after an MRI in the spring I found out there was a tear in both my labrum and rotator cuff.”
Confusion, and anger, set in during the process. With the initial injury happening in the fall, Allen went through the process for six months only to find out that her shoulder was messed up. The initial reactions was frustration, and a not knowing what was going to happen next.
She knew having surgery on her shoulder could take up to a year to heal. This is when her, and her family, sat down to go over all the options. The options that would be best for her and for her collegiate career.
Allen wasn’t too keen on sitting out another year. So, she decided to go for a different option.
“I would say it was extremely discouraging after going through rehab for around 6 months and ultimately learning I wouldn’t step on the field. I was confused about what the next year would look for me after my diagnosis. Rotator cuff and labral surgery can very invasive and often comes with a 12-month recovery time. Knowing this I had many discussions with my family to pick the best route for me to go. The thought of being out another year was very overwhelming at the time, but my parents kept me optimistic about the future,” explained Allen. I ultimately decided to undergo Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections for both my labrum and rotator cuff. PRP is a form of regenerative medicine which can amplify the natural growth factor your body uses to heal tissue tears. The injections are made of your own platelets and are injected into the tears. PRP injections are still considered experimental but, there has been great success stories.”
It was a risk to say the least, but a risk that Allen was willing to take. She didn’t know early on if it was going to work. She didn’t know anything. It was the unknown that was scary. She had to wait five months before Allen saw the results.
Five long months she waited and waited. Allen was worried about her fitness because she wasn’t able to touch a stick. She stayed in the Albany area and did rehab twice a week. She seas doing anything, and everything, to get back on that field.
“I wasn’t allowed to touch my stick or run for at least 4 months. I was worried how I would keep my fitness and skill to wear it needed to be. I stayed the summer in the Albany area and did rehab twice a week every week at Capital Area physical therapy,” stated Allen. “I credit much of my recovery to my injection doctor and physical therapist. My physical therapist pushed me and challenged me like an athlete. Seeing small improvements such as just being able to lift my arm kept me going.”
The unknown became a great known for Allen. She could have went the conventional route and had the survey on her shoulder. But, she rolled on the dice on this method and herself.
After all the pain and suffering, Allen went back for an MRI in the spring where it showed her shoulder being completely healed. She had a lot of ups and downs her sophomore year, but Allen worked through them and was able to get back on the field with her teammates.
“I am so grateful I chose to undergo PRP injections and for the doctors and therapists because I was able to step back on the field this season. When I returned in the fall, I had another MRI. It miraculously showed my rotator cuff had healed. I still have a labrum tear, but the pain has subsided and is managed with strengthening exercises,” stated Allen. “There were so many up and downs in my sophomore year, but I learned the most I ever had about myself. Being injured and not being able to play last season made me realize all the things I take for granted.”
The biggest part about going through all this was not being able to be on the field with her friends again. The same girls she played with her freshman year, Allen was now watching them. The biggest part about rehabbing an injury is that you aren’t with the team.
You almost feel like you are alone. They are still your teammates, but it’s just a little bit different.
“When I initially found out I wouldn’t be on the field last year I was so disappointed that another season was gone and wouldn’t be able to play with most of the girls I did my freshman year ever again,” stated Allen. “Watching the team from afar is difficult because you’re not out there with them to go through the ups and downs on the field. I knew I wasn’t going to play but that didn’t mean I still couldn’t have a role on the team. I took on a new role. I wanted to be helpful in any way I could whether it was taking stats, getting waters, or being my teammates biggest fan, whatever it was I wanted to be there.”
All that hard work has paid off as Allen finally hit the field this spring. Allen will be the first to admit that the first time she stepped back on the field it was a little nerve wracking. She didn’t know how she would react when she stepped back out there.
Allen also didn’t know if her shoulder was going to hold back up. All that hard work was about to pay off.
“Coming back this year was at times nerve wracking. But I reminded myself everyday not to be too hard myself. It is easy to be overwhelmed and think it will take so long to get back to playing like you did before an injury. It is important to remember it doesn’t happen over night and ultimately everything will always be okay,” stated Allen. “This year stepping on the field in Oregon for the first time in two years I can’t say I wasn’t somewhat nervous, but I was definitely way more excited and grateful to be back on the field. I feel even though I missed the last two years I am more confident and feeling better than I ever have. The challenges and adversity over the past two years has changed my mentality and approach to the game. I find myself just enjoying being able to compete again.”
Competing is something Allen loves to do. You don’t hear many players say how much they love to play defense. Allen loves to play defense. She loves to try and stop the opposing teams best players.
When she steps on the field, Allen is the most composed, and prepared, player out there. She will make sure she is in the right position to help her team win.
“Defense is the position I have always loved. I think the things the separate good defenders and great defenders are lacrosse IQ and grit. Preparation is key. I spend a lot of time watching film and learning about my opponents tendencies. No matter how good of a defender you are, given enough opportunities, a good attacker will eventually beat you. If you face someone 20 times and they beat you once, don’t focus on the one time they beat you. Learn from it,” explained Allen. “No matter the player you are, everyone makes mistakes but adapting/learning from those makes defenders successful. Having a short memory is just as important, moving past mistakes and moving onto the next play ahead helps you maintain your confidence and composure.”