Rarely is a high school athlete’s senior season a storybook tale from start to finish.

JACKSON TWP.  Rarely is a high school athlete’s senior season a storybook tale from start to finish.

It might be an emotional final chance to compete alongside friends and teammates with whom they’ve played most of their lives, but that doesn’t make it exempt from the adversity and challenges that are a part of life for athletes at any level. 

Jackson senior linebacker Zach Harrison was hit with a big dose of adversity early on in his final year of high school football, suffering a significant knee injury during a conditioning session in early June.

“I have a partial tear of my PCL … we were doing agility drills in the gym and I slipped and fell in a weird way. I tried to get up and finish the drill, but there was searing pain in my knee and i took the rest of the day off,” Harrison said. “I finished the bench workout, but I didn’t do any running and then I saw the trainer and she told me to go see the doctor and they diagnosed me.”

With a projected recovery time of four to six weeks, Harrison won’t undergo surgery but has been forced to tamp down his training in order to give his knee the rest it needs to heal. He can’t cut, jump or squat, but is able to run and do upper body lifts and is also working on flexibility exercises so he can be ready to go with a full range of motion when he’s given the green light to start full-scale work once more.

In the meantime, he’s been fitted with a special knee brace designed to provide support for the ACL and PCL. The brace offers stability as his knee heals, but not being able to do the same work as his teammates and be beside them through every drill is tough to accept.

“It’s pretty hard with the season coming so fast and team camp starting, two a days coming soon and seven on sevens,” Harrison said. “You’ve just got to keep yourself mentally sharp and know everything we’re doing on defense … keep getting those mental reps and getting back to full health.”

Although Harrison has always placed a high level of importance on the mental side of the game - football is “90 percent mental and 10 percent physical” in his estimation - he admitted that because he’s unable to do his normal work physically, he’s amped up his intensity on the mental aspects of the game.

He’s spent time talking to teammates who have dealt with similar injuries and they’ve told him that staying mentally sharp and believing that you will get back on the field and perform at your usual standards are important when  trying to come back from a knee injury.

Head coach Tim Budd’s message has been for Harrison to do whatever he needs to do to get healthy so he can enjoy doing what he loves for his senior season. The team’s training staff works extensively with players on exercises aimed at injury prevention and Harrison noted that with many players who have battled knee and shoulder ailments, those have been focal points for the injury prevention work days.

Although his knee aches right now, Harrison is intent on both getting back on the field and putting the injury out of his mind when he is able to play again.

“I’m going to work hard and get back at it, it’s my senior year and I’m not going to miss it … nothing’s going to keep me off that field,” Harrison said. I’m going to wear the special brace they gave me … but when I’m out on that field, there’s nothing else on my mind except doing my job.”

It’s not the summer he envisioned himself having, but such plot twists are inevitably part of the story for athletes as they chase their goals. His torn PCL might be an early chapter in his senior season’s tale, but Harrison plans to write a happy ending in spite of it. 

Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
or andy.harris@thesuburbanite.com.
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB