Since her freshman year at Lehighton Area High School, Sarah Keer felt the pain in her shins.
Dealing with stress fractures in her legs, the forward continued to play, and the pressure continued to build.
In September 2013, after playing in six of the team’s first eight games as a freshman, Keer visited a team trainer and was later diagnosed with chronic exertional compartment syndrome in both of her legs—when excessive pressure builds up inside an enclosed space inside the body, often after vigorous exercise, according to the Mayo Clinic. It leads to serious tissue damage, with loss of body function and fatalities possible in some scenarios.
The injury sidelined Keer for seven months and forced her to redshirt for the rest of her freshman season, but she was never worried she wouldn’t play again.
“I knew a couple people who had had the surgery and it didn’t stop them,” the redshirt sophomore said. “I knew that if I just kept rehabbing, kept doing what I was told by the doctor, didn’t force anything and didn’t push too hard, that I would be good to go.”
Keer called herself a “visual learner,” and the time spent on the sidelines during her injury allowed her to watch what was going on in games and “figure out what [she] needed to do in order to come back a better player.”
She returned in 2014 and played in 16 of the team’s 21 games, scoring her first career goal Oct.18, 2014 in the team’s 4-1 win against the College of William & Mary.
Similar to Keer, senior midfielder Alyssa Delp missed the spring season during her sophomore year with a meniscus tear, and she was forced to rehab for six months.
“I didn’t have compartment syndrome, but … I know how it is to be in her shoes,” Delp said. “She missed out on a season, but she got the best she could get right here on the sideline, seeing everything and learning. Even from the sideline, she knew how to apply it the year she came back.”
In Temple’s second game of 2015, a 9-0 defeat of Towson University, Keer recorded a goal, an assist and three total points.
Keer’s three goals and seven points through 13 games this season, which are both tied for fourth on the team, have already tripled her one goal and two points from all of 2014.
“I think overall it’s just her confidence,” senior forward Tricia Light said. “She has confidence in our teammates. She has confidence in our coaches. She has a great shot, and she has some great corner options. That confidence carries through into your game a lot when you feel that your teammates are supporting you.”
After going through rehab and getting back on the field, Keer took a positive outlook from her injury, labeling her ability to overcome compartment syndrome as her “proudest accomplishment.”
“It definitely made me appreciate playing every single game and every single day of practice,” Keer said. “It made me appreciate everything so much more because you don’t understand what it’s like not to play until you’re actually not playing. I think it just made my love for the game grow even more.”
Matthew Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.