By Ben Hanneman, SWT Sports Writer
Sometimes your toughest opponent is yourself.
Not long ago, Jade Murray was in a battle for her very emotional stability. Between her eighth and ninth grade year the rising Pulaski County High School freshman suffered a relatively rare knee injury.
A catcher on her travel softball team, Murray was familiar with the physical demands on her knees and back. She’d dislocated her knee in sixth grade playing Fall ball and was even fitted for a brace to wear at practice and in games.
Admittedly, Murray, now a sophomore, was not wearing her brace when she planted her foot wrong running windsprints in the gym during tryouts for a travel team. Her knee popped out of socket again. This time was different though. The pain and swelling would not go away.
“I tried everything. I went through about three months of physical therapy, so I went to the doctor and he suggested taking the summer off,” Murray said.
Turns out her IT tendon, that long one that runs along the outside of your thigh bone and connects to the outside of your knee, was giving her kneecap fits.
“One of my IT bands was really, really tight. It kept pulling my kneecap to one side. My kneecap doesn’t fit well anyway because the grove is shallow. When I planted wrong I could see my kneecap,” Murray said, almost cringing at the memory. “It wasn’t really a stabbing pain. It was just there, and enough to bring you to tears.”
The injury came on the heels of a back strain she suffered in a car accident just prior that confined her to a back brace for a short time.
As she waited for the swelling in her knee to decrease, the youngster was confined to the couch while her friends and teammates were still out there playing. She honestly thought her playing days were over, which wore on her worse than her injury.
“It was a week before high school and honestly I didn’t have much hope (about playing again),” Murray said.
All the while two very difficult choices loomed. One was a lengthy rehabilitation through weight training and range of motion exercises. The other – surgery – was even less appealing and would still involve a lengthy and painful rehab.
Almost a month later later, her knee not really any better, the choice was essentially made and Murray went under the knife. It was only an outpatient procedure, meaning she’d be able to sleep in her own bed and have Mom fix her meals.
Then a very difficult rehab period began, with the emphasis on pain. On a one-to-10 pain scale, Murray said, “It was a 10. It was pretty bad.”
The most painful exercise was one a healthy athlete all but takes for granted.
“I couldn’t even do leg lifts it hurt so much,” she remembered.
Soon, somewhat understandably, depression set in.
“I wasn’t as happy as I usually am. I couldn’t watch softball without getting upset. I couldn’t watch sports in general without getting upset at myself because I knew it was my fault. I should have been wearing my brace.”
All the while, mom Terry, who works at PCHS, continued to nurse her daughter back to health. But secretly the depression deepened. No suicidal thoughts or anything, just no drive to do anything.
“I’m very impatient. I wanted to be up and doing stuff, but the recovery wasn’t going as quickly as I thought,” Murray said.
Ironically, Mom and Dad helped change all that. Having helped her husband through his own sports injuries Mom knew she had to light some kind of fire under her daughter.
“She kept saying ‘You can’t just sit here. We’ve got to get you up and moving. If you want to play softball again you have to do this.’ I didn’t even want to do my physical therapy, but she really pushed me. Dad helped me with the softball aspect because he’s more into sports, but Mom helped me just get up and move around even without my crutches.”
Since then, Murray has nearly completely recovered. Her knee may never be 100 percent. Doctors had to repair more than expected. Her knee gets sore every now and then, but wearing her brace allows her to stay competitive. These days she’s pitching every few games when primary starter and friend Courtney Beville needs a rest.
Murray won’t admit it very loud or very often, but she does miss her days behind the plate.
“Catcher was my favorite position,” Murray said. “I enjoy pitching now that I’ve learned how to do it. But catching was my first position, my first love because you get to see everything on the field.”
With every adversity comes a valuable life lesson. Asked what she’s learned through her own agony and pain, Murray pointed to something her team, classmates, coaches, and parents no doubt already knew about her.
“I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I originally thought I was,” Murray said. “And I learned that I let fear dictate my life more than I should. I need to get over that, because it still sort of dictates my life in a way.”
As for any advice she would pass along to a teammate or classmate who may need to go through a similar process, Murray said, “You are extremely strong. You are stronger than you think you are. Surround yourself with people who are going to make you feel like you can do anything. You need to have encouraging people around you. And do what your doctor says.”
No wonder she can make pitching look so effortless.