Queen of the Court


Senior Bri Porter made her return to the Lady Bruins’ basketball team last month. She has missed the past two seasons due to ACL injuries. Photo by Lisa Holt

Urmilla Kuttikad

[heading]Following two ACL tears, senior captain Bri Porter returns to the Lady Bruins[/heading] Senior Bri Porter has spent 27 months of her life recovering. Some athletes can detail a cringe-inducing inventory of various injuries that have claimed wrists and shoulders and knees, but Porter, a RBHS varsity basketball player, has battled only one: the torn ACL.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament, or ACL, is located deep within the knee joint and is crucial for movement. Tearing it is widely referred to as one of the most painful athletic injuries, which anyone who has torn an ACL will know. Porter, however, has torn the ACL in her right knee not just once, not even twice, but three times in a row. She tore it for the first time in January 2011, then again in 2012, then for the third, and what she hopes will be the final, time last October.
“I think the first time was the most devastating because I didn’t know what was happening, and I was totally surprised and horrified when I heard the possibility of an ACL tear mentioned,” Porter said. “The two most recent times, though, I knew what I’d done the instant it happened, so it wasn’t such a surprise.”
Senior Bri Porter made her return to the Lady Bruins' basketball team last month. She has missed the past two seasons due to ACL injuries. photo courtesy of Lisa Holt
Senior Bri Porter made her return to the Lady Bruins’ basketball team last month. She has missed the past two seasons due to ACL injuries.
photo courtesy of Lisa Holt
The reality of not being able to play for several months after each injury, however, is worse than the initial pain of each tear, Porter said. The duration of each rehabilitation process has grown progressively longer, with six months of physical therapy needed after the first tear, eight after the second and the latest one demanding 13 and counting. Though not being able to play was difficult, RBHS head basketball coach Jill Nagel said the team made sure to keep Porter involved in everything that was going on.
“It’s easy, with an injury, to feel disconnected or alienated,” Nagel said. “But we’ve made sure she’s been really involved, that she’s known she was still a huge part of the team and getting us to where we are, making sure that she’s still coming to games, helping us out. And as I told her last year, helping to be a coach for us. You learn so much by watching from the sidelines. So she would help see things for us on the bench and relate those to us as a coach, and being with the players she can have a unique inside view to help us out and maybe make things work a little better.”
Porter started playing basketball when she was four and having something this important to her taken away for so long has been a taxing ordeal. However, she hasn’t had to deal with it on her own; her patchwork support system of coaches, teammates, family and faith has been a source of profound strength and encouragement.
“My coaches have been amazingly supportive, and even when I couldn’t play, my teammates always made me feel like an important part of the team, which meant a lot to me,” Porter said. “They’ve been encouraging throughout the whole process.”
Porter’s teammate, senior Mubinah Khaleel, said it was important to the Bruins to give Porter this encouragement. Even though Porter’s natural talent for basketball gave the team a confidence that she’d be OK, they continued to provide her with comfort and reassurance throughout her time away from playing.
“We were always just telling her, ‘keep pushing through, keep going with your year,’” Khaleel said. “‘Rehab and it’ll get better eventually, come back and play.’ She’s a really good player, too, so we had faith that she’d come back really strong.”
In addition to the support of her teammates and coaches, Porter said some of the biggest sources of strength came from her family and faith, both of which are critical elements in her life.
“The biggest encouragement, though, came from my family — especially my parents,” Porter said. “There were a lot of times that I doubted myself or questioned my ability to come back as a competitive player, but my parents were a constant source of encouragement. My relationship with God is also the most important thing in my life, so naturally it’s been the most important part of this process. I trust God, and I believe in His love, so when things like this happen — things that I don’t understand — I defer to God’s plan.”
With the continued brace of her support system, Porter started playing and attending practices again about a month ago, saying she considers the past year her “ease in” period. She’s played two games already, but she says it’ll take about another month to fully readjust before she can go full-speed.
“Doctor’s orders are two minutes per quarter, so we keep a pretty tight eye on that and make sure we’re following doctor’s rules,” Nagel said. “And she’s done great; these past two games she’s felt great, she’s looked great, and it’s been 22 months since she’s played a high school basketball game, so definitely we want to take this slow. As we told her, it’s a journey. Five months is how long the season is; we want to make sure we have her at the end of the five months. So would we love to have her for all 32 minutes of every game … but we’re willing to sacrifice and she is as well. Eight minutes a game until Christmas or so, when she gets released fully, hopefully. And then we can have her for the long haul.”
Eight minutes may not be much time for Porter, but for her sister and fellow teammate, junior Cierra Porter, the handful of minutes is quite immeasurable. Cierra has grown up playing basketball with her sister. For her, the two are inseparable entities. After a turbulent few years of losing that constant, Cierra said she is ecstatic to be playing with her sister again.
“I’m really excited. I’ve always liked playing with her; that’s why we’re going to the same college,” Cierra said. “Because we play well together, we know where each other are gonna go and all that stuff. So I’m really excited to have her back; it’ll make the experience more fun.”
Though the injuries and 27 cumulative months of rehabilitation have come unwanted, Bri is appreciative of the way the injuries have shaped her view on basketball. The sport is no longer something she takes for granted.
“When I was younger, [basketball] was just a fun game to play, but it has become more significant as I’ve gotten older,” Bri said. “I feel like anything you put that much time into has to take on some new meaning outside of just its own, and for me, basketball’s importance lies in the habits it teaches me and the greater number of people it allows me to interact with. But it’s still also a really fun game to play. In a weird way, going through these injuries has made basketball more fun to me. Now that I realize it’s not something I’m guaranteed, I feel so excited and grateful every time I have the opportunity to play.”
By Urmila Kutikkad