Calling it a career: when sports-related injuries become too serious to keep playing

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — For Mackenzie Loesing, it all started when she was five.

“As soon as I could walk I was pretty much participating in sports,” said Loesing, who grew up outside of Cincinnati.

She has three older brothers, one of whom plays basketball in Europe, so, without question, the Ohio native took to that quite quickly. She picked up a ball in kindergarten and never looked back – playing AAU and at high school before signing a letter of intent to play Division 1 basketball at the University at Buffalo.

After signing that letter and committing to UB, Loesing tore her right anterior talofibular ligament (ATFL). She needed reconstructive surgery.

“I felt invisible,” said Loesing.  “I didn’t think it would ever come back.”

It did, though. Loesing played through her freshman season. During her sophomore year, the repair started failing. Loesing needed a second surgery. Doctors told her, this was her last chance for it to hold. She says she thought it would.

“I just went through reconstructive surgery and it started hurting again and immediately I knew,” said Loesing. “I got an MRI and it was torn for a third time.”

Doctors told Loesing she couldn’t play basketball any longer.

“I decided to play through my junior season against doctors orders,” said Loesing. “Every athlete has to eventually come to a point where they lose their career. The difference for me is that this wasn’t my choice. This was beyond my control.”

The idea of having these long-term effects, compromising her health were too much to bear.

“At the end of the season, I was finished for good,” said the shooting guard. “It was absolutely devastating. It was the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.”

Dr. Les Bisson, a sports medicine physician says it’s hard for a lot of athletes.

“Even the toughest people often will cry — there is so much emotion involved,” said Dr. Bisson who teaches at UB’s School of Medicine. “They’re so invested in their team and their sport.”

He says sports injuries, like Loesing’s, can have lasting effects.

“Most of what we see is arthritis long term,” said Dr. Bisson. He says arthritis can kick in 10 to 15 years after an initial injury occurs so someone tearing an ACL when they’re in high school, can have lingering pain when they’re in their mid-thirties.

Loesing will have to wear a brace the rest of her life. She says her injuries and having to give up basketball has taught her a lot about life.

“All though this is a huge part of who I am, it’s not all that I am.”

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