Bristol City striker Abi Harrison says she feels mentally stronger after recovering from “the dreaded” anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The 22-year-old Scottish forward sustained the injury in November 2019.
She played for the first time since then in a pre-season fixture on Sunday.
“The medical team told me to prepare for the worst, before I went for the scan, but in my head there was no way I could ever prepare,” Harrison said.
“You hear of the dreaded ACL throughout women’s football and almost you don’t expect it to happen to you, but I was one of the unlucky ones.”
Research has shown women players are eight times more likely than men to injure their ACL, and it was revealed in April that the Football Association would start a study to try to find out why the problem was so common for women.
“To be honest, I was probably very, very naive [because] I ran off the pitch [when the injury happened],” Harrison recalled.
“In my head, it couldn’t be my ACL. Most people that do that get carried off on a stretcher or are screaming, but I jogged off the pitch.
“The medical team knew right away, as soon as I explained what happened and what I had felt, they knew what it was.”
‘The medical team said to prepare for the worst’
She continued: “Then it’s a horrible wait. There are a whole lot of emotions. There’s the worry. ‘Can I do it? Can I get through it? How will I deal with it away from family, friends and loved ones? Will I come back? If I do come back, will I be the same player?’ It all goes through your head.
“The medical team told me to prepare for the worst, before I went for the scan, but in my head there was no way I could ever prepare. You can try to but nothing hurts more than when you get the news. [Later] it starts to hit home, how long the road ahead is.
“So hats off to anyone that has been through it. It’s a hard time and it can be lonely, but having been back on the pitch on Sunday, it was worth all that and more for the feeling I got and to know that all the hard work paid off.
“Mentally I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and the appreciation for the small things in life has grown an awful lot.”
Harrison is now hoping to make up for lost time when the new Women’s Super League season gets under way in September.
The former Hibernian player added: “The injury is obviously terrible and you wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, but it’s shown me a different side to me.
“Anyone that knew me before knew the gym wasn’t my place and I wasn’t a fan, but once you see the gains, and going from not being able to lift your own leg, to being able to squat more than your body weight, it all pays off, when you look back.
“It’s been a hard journey but one I definitely came out of the other side better.”