Kira Sarkisian

Kira Sarkisian

My name is Kira Sarkisian and I was a NSCAA High-School All American in High School and played for the United States National Team when I was 17. I went on to play college ball for the Santa Clara Broncos and Arizona State Sun Devils. While being an athlete was once a much larger part of my life, today it’s a much smaller part than it once was, but I consider the game of soccer my first love and lifelong passion. 

Recently, I relocated to San Francisco for a new job and began playing with The Olympic Club. Unlike most of my teammates growing up, I considered myself incredibly lucky never to have suffered a major knee injury, but I watched many, many teammates go through the agony and pain of a torn ACL, with fingers crossed that it would never happen to me. My time was yet to come. 

On a foggy San Francisco morning on April 10, 2015, a minute before half time, I was running in front of a player to intercept a pass she had mistrapped and time froze. The moments to come make my stomach turn still. My right foot twisted when I planted and I felt everything in my knee shift. There was no pop, as many players describe hearing when they tear their ACL, but I knew it was bad. Days later, tears streamed down my face while leaving a doctor’s office after hearing my diagnosis, an athlete’s worst nightmare. 

I opted for the patellar tendon allograft on my right knee and underwent surgery two weeks later. Ice machines, Percocet, and the CPM machine ruled my life for several weeks while I worked remotely from my parents’ home and gradually started PT twice a week. Staring at my leg after being in a brace for several weeks was horrifying. Almost all of my muscle had atrophied in my quad, hamstring and calf in my surgical leg and it was downright depressing how quickly it disappeared. Several weeks later I got a full rotation in on a stationary bike. Eventually, I could get up the stairs to my apartment in San Francisco. Baby steps. At some point, I stopped taking Uber everywhere. Going down stairs and hills is still a struggle and I’m 6-months post op.

Clearly prepared for the physical challenge this injury would bring, I was ready and willing to follow all my PT’s directions and progress was encouraging. I was taking a spin class three months after surgery, back in yoga (with modifications), and barre again, and pleased to be breaking a sweat.  

What I didn’t anticipate was the emotional challenge – For me, learning to ask for help, leaning on your teammates and friends and family is humbling. Know that some people just don’t get it and they never will. Most non-athletes cannot possibly grasp the daunting challenge of rehabbing an ACL. 

Turn to your teammates and other athletes who’ve been through this before and come out the other side, healthy and happy. 

I’m stubborn, pretty independent and very impatient, all things that don’t serve you well when you’re learning how to walk again. Luckily, living in San Francisco, I was rescued by the on-demand, startup nature of this city. Laundry delivered by Rinse, dinner delivered by Munchery, and anything else? Amazon Prime.

While I’m incredibly grateful not to be going through this when it mattered most to me – in high school and college, I am grateful today for having had this experience because it’s helped me realize all that I take for granted and just how quickly life can and does change. One of the moments I’ll never forget was taking my first shower after surgery. With all the love, affection, and encouragement from Mom to walk out of her open shower, I realized I couldn’t walk. So terrified I would slip, I sat down and just started to sob, realizing just how much work I had in front of me.  

This injury will challenge you in ways you’ve never imagined, make you burst into tears in a split second, and help you appreciate life’s smallest blessings. When you’re forced to slow down, you’ll realize just how many beautiful people, places, and memories the game of soccer has brought into your life. Being a competitive athlete doesn’t breed patience; you’ll want them all back immediately. 

While I didn’t choose this for myself, it chose me. It’s an experience that has truly tested me, tried my patience and humbled me beyond belief. People’s lives change in a split second everyday – and mine was drastically inconvenienced for a year. While my recovery is still underway, I do my best to rejoice in the small victories along the way. In this game of life, we’ll sacrifice for something we truly love. From a very young age, I knew I loved to play and nearly 20 years later, it’s still a love worth fighting for. For this, I feel eternally blessed.

I’m forever indebted to those who continue to help me during my recovery: 

  •   My parents, Nathan & Shelly Sarkisian
  •   The Olympic Club Women’s Soccer Team
  •   J.T. Hanley – Coach
  •   Lisa Paradiso, DPT
  •   Warren King, M.D.
  •   Jordan Angeli & The ACL Club!
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