By Phil Haddad

Times Writer

The year 2005 was a very good year, or good for some people. Julie Foster, senior at Oley Valley High, would like to forget the spring of 2005.

While playing soccer for the Oley girls' soccer team, she tore her A.C.L. and her meniscus in her knee as well. The long road to recovery was very hard, but the reward was she was able to play field hockey towards the end of the regular season in her junior year.

Being forced to watch half of the season last year was something that Foster didn't want to do, but she knew that she couldn't come back too soon or she might do more damage to her knee.

"It was very hard for me to sit there and watch the games last year," said Foster. "Coming into that season last fall, I knew that I wasn't able to show what I could do. I took a lot of things for granted."

Foster wasn't sure what to think when she first went to the orthopedic surgeon because she had never had major surgery.

"He told me that he was going to do a test and take a really big needle and stick it in my knee. If it came out clear, I didn't tear my A.C.L., but if blood was in the syringe when he pulled it out, it ment that I tore the A.C.L.," said Foster.

"After the results, the doctor said he thought I had torn my A.C.L. and he sent me for an M.R.I. which confirmed the tear. They really couldn't tell that I had torn my meniscus. At first the doctor thought I might have had a slight tear, but I found out after surgery that I did all that damage."

Dr. Martin from Commonwealth told Foster that it would be six to nine months for recovery. She was hoping that all would go well and she would be back playing the sport she loved before that time frame.

"My first thought was let's see when I can get back on the field," said Foster. "The date was October first and I couldn't wait for that day.

Foster didn't know what to expect going into her surgery, so the fear and nervousness were at an all time high for her.

"I was never under surgery where I got anesthesia for so long and being in a hospital before," said Foster. "I was extremely nervous. My mom was there and she was trying to calm me down."

After the surgery, Foster was more determined than ever to get back to playing field hockey and Foster knew that she would be a better person after going through this. She knew that she would learn a lot from all the hard work she had to do.

"I've learned not to take things for granted because I know what I'm still capable of doing," said Foster. "I never realized that I might not be able to go out there and run and play field hockey. I never thought of it as 'oh I'm going to hurt myself', that I couldn't play.

"I never thought that I would have to go through a big surgery. I thought that I was untouchable."The long road to recovery after her surgery started with rehab just four days after her surgery. "My rehab consisted of three to five or six days a week and it lasted anywhere from an hour to three hours and I did that for six months," said Foster. "It was less than a month from when I injuried my knee to when I had my surgery. I didn't understand what was happening when the injury first occurred. I had to go back to hospital in June and the cartilage in the knee built up and they had to fix that. It took longer than I had first thought. The rehab was very hard, and harder than I thought it was going to be."

Her family and friends went to rehab with Foster to help her and give her words of encourgagement no matter how much she may have wanted to quit or no matter how hard the rehab got.

"They would help me if I had a rubberband and I would have to do strength exercise, and they would be there helping me count, or getting me stuff or encouraging me," said Foster. "They would remind me that in six months I would be done with the rehab. They reminded me that I would be back to where I was. They told me that I wasn't going to take anything for granted. They told me that I would be better off after the rehab was over."

Coach Donna Long, Oley Valley field hockey coach, encouraged Foster in a different way from her family, friends, teammates and the physical therapist.

"She's a player that would have been a starter last year, but due to the injury, she was still coming to practice and doing more running than the field players," said Long. "That's all she could do and she couldn't do the drills, but she could do the flat running around the track.

"Seeing how hard she was working was encouraging, not only to see it as a coach, but I think for the other players as well. Hopefully they looked at her as there's a player who can't play, but look how hard she's working and we need to do that as well."

After her rehab was done, Foster worked hard to get back into shape so she would be able to go back out to the field and help her teammates win not only the Berks County title, but a District 3 and state title in field hockey as well.

"Over the summer when the rest of the team was doing their runs, I was stuck in rehab," said Foster. "They made it special for me because they let me bring my hockey stick and ball so I could do ball warm-ups. By the end of rehab, they were letting me run with the ball so I wouldn't feel like I was out of it and thrown back in there.

Coach Long saw how determined Foster was to prove to her and her assistant coach that she hasn't lost a step on the field, and that she still had the fire and desire to be a very good field hockey player. "Julie was always a hard worker," said Long. "Because of the injury, she knew that she would have to work harder and she definitly has done that."

The butterflies and nerves were there when Foster got a chance to play in her first game since the surgery on her knee. "I didn't think I would be, but I was very scared playing in my first game back," said Foster. "I was very timid going towards the ball or very rushed. I didn't feel like with my knee I was 100% better, but I knew if I kept on trying with running I could build the strength to get back to normal.

Everyone was nervous for Foster in her first game back including her coaches, family and friends. "We were all more than a little bit nervous her first game back," said Long. "She had subbed the first game back and we put her in for a few minutes here and there until she got comfortable and back into the swing of things.

"Her work ethic throughout the off-season got her a starting position on the team this year. Anytime a player comes back from an injury like that, it's a little nerve racking at first."

By getting the chance to play in one regular season game last year, she had a chance to get rid of the butterflies and work out the fears that she had before the Lynx entered the playoffs. That helped her feel relaxed and not as nervous.

"I was still pretty nervous going into the playoff games," said Foster. "The whole team was so excited for me to come back. Everyone was cheering me on, and it wasn't an intense game but it was still very serious. We knew that it wouldn't have been a tough game so it helped that I didn't have all this pressure on me. My friends were there cheering me on and encouraging me which helped a lot."

Foster has this advice for any athlete no matter what age or how severe the injury. "My advice would be to work hard and even though things may go completely wrong, just keep on working," said Foster. "Hopefully you have some good friends, supporters and family. That helps encourage you to keep on trying and never give up."

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