The Journey Back: Noguera documenting ACL rehab

HOUSTON – Heading into 2019, Leilani Noguera had fortunately never suffered a major injury or had to undergo a surgery in her playing career.

That all changed on January 6.

Noguera, a sophomore at Clear Lake High Shool, was practicing with her boys YMCA team and were scrimmaging three on three. While defending on the three-point line, Noguera shifted to her left to follow the guy with the ball. Her leg gave out when she heard three loud pops.

The injury happened on a Friday and the MRI on the following Monday showed the worst – three tears in her meniscus and a completely torn ACL.

On February 8, Noguera underwent surgery to repair her meniscus and ACL.

The next step of the process after surgery was the long road of recovery back. This journey is usually done privately, and the gritty portion of the rehab is never seen.

But Noguera chose to show her process through video on her personal Twitter account.

The first video, posted on February 15, showed Noguera working with a physical therapist just barely moving her left leg, while she balanced on a training table. The next came seven days later, Noguera this time was pedaling on a stationary bicycle for the first time.

On February 25, Noguera posted another video. This time it was her again on the bike but in visible pain as she struggled to push the pedals with a metal brace wrapped around her knee.

This was the first video where Noguera showed the pain that comes with coming back from an injury like an ACL tear.

“I started posting videos of myself rehabbing because I know how hard the process and being away from my sport is,” Noguera said. “I wanted other people who were struggling with the same issues to see and understand that they aren’t alone in their pain and difficulties.”

On February 28, Noguera posted another video. It was her walking the first time with a brace and no crutches. Just 20 days removed from surgery.

The videos have continued.

First workout, shooting stationary shots on the court, dribbling basketballs while sitting in a chair, balancing without holding onto rails, and balancing on her left leg for the first time on Tuesday.

Every video posted has shown some type of progress. A step in the right direction and Noguera hopes for other athletes going through this, this serves as something they can relate to.

“If another athlete gets this same injury, I’d hope that they could have some sense of satisfaction in being able to relate to someone,” Noguera said. “I want them to see the whole thing- the tears, the pain, the struggles, as well as all the support, love, and satisfaction you receive when you put in the work for something you love.”

Being away from the game has been the hardest part of this.

For three months now, Noguera hasn’t been able to fully play the game she loves and that, not the rehab, has what has been the biggest challenge.

“The hardest part of rehab is to be away from the sport that I love more than anything,” Noguera said. “Basketball is my sport, and it’s like having part of my sanity taken away from me. Sure, the rehab is hard, but it takes just as much mental strength to get through the injury as physical strength.”

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