Life can be ironic.
Redshirt freshman forward Mikayla Flores wants to go to medical school. She wants to be an orthopedic surgeon. She wants to be one who fixes ACL tears. But this past year, she spent most of her time recovering from one.
“It was really tough,” Flores said.
Flores played for the club team Legends FC in summer 201 before her freshman year. She played in regionals, and the injury occurred during her fifth game in five days.
“I went out the last 10 minutes of the game,” Flores said. “I was just running with the ball, and my knee just gave out.”
Her right knee turned inward. She wasn’t touched. Her ACL tore. Her freshman year at Texas ended before it started, and she didn’t even know it.
“Honestly, I could walk,” Flores said. “I was at the gym after, up until I went to the doctor’s, and then I saw my orthopedic — my PA — he just told me the news. It was really shocking, really unexpected.”
Her next shocker: She also tore her meniscus. The recovery process took longer because she had a meniscal root repair in addition to her ACL surgery. The doctors sewed her meniscus up where it was torn, and then they sewed it back down onto the bone.
Flores experienced adversity she had never encountered in her life. She took the recovery process one day and one exercise at a time.
She started the day she had surgery, doing toe pumps, quad fluxions and leg raises every 20 minutes.
“The leg raises were the toughest,” Flores said. “I couldn’t even raise my leg after surgery. It was that weak, and I had lost that much muscle.”
Down the road, she did the QuadMill in the North End Zone, then body-weight squats and balancing on her surgically repaired knee.
She ran on an underwater treadmill when her knee brace was removed.
“I had to learn to re-walk all over again,” she said.
Additionally, she had to re-strengthen her quad muscles. Gradually, she began to run again.
“It’s been hard work,” Flores said.
But she doesn’t shy away from the work, according to head coach Angela Kelly.
“Her work ethic is impeccable,” Kelly said. “She worked so incredibly hard this all this past year — in rehab, in the weight room, whatever she could do to get an edge while not being able to contribute on the field.”
Now Flores is back contributing and doesn’t think about the possibility of re-injuring her knee. She scored a goal in Texas’ first exhibition game against Houston Baptist. She played 89 minutes in the Longhorns’ 2–0 loss against No. 5 North Carolina.
“I love her willingness to take people on,” Kelly said. “She faces up, and she looks to be a personality on the ball.”
Flores couldn’t fast-forward through the tough times. Now back on the field, she’s OK with that.
“I wouldn’t take it back if I could rewind,” Flores said.