Tacoma Stars professional indoor soccer player, Willie Spurr, opens up about the challenges he faced following a recent injury and the turning point that led him to seek help with Renew Physical Therapy. Learn more about the highs and lows, the motivation, and the support that fueled Willie’s recovery, alongside insights and the role of Renew physical therapist, Matt Godofsky, PT, DPT, in guiding Willie back to the professional soccer stage.
Q: Can you tell us about your specific injury?
Willie: I got injured playing for my previous team in California, during a game. There was a deflected ball off of the back wall behind the goal and I ended up in a contesting challenge with the goalkeeper. When I was trying to shoot the ball, the sole of his foot made contact with the lower part of my knee. My leg hyperextended. I had a PCL tear, a meniscus root tear, and a tibial plateau fracture.
Matt: Willie’s first injury occurred during an in-game soccer match. He required surgery to not only reconstruct ligaments, but also address a fracture in his lower leg. His rehab was initially not going as planned and required a secondary surgery. After that procedure, Willie was able to come to Renew Physical Therapy to try a different approach with our therapists.
Q: How did your injury affect your life and soccer career?
Willie: As I went through the recovery process, in the early stages, I thought, “I’m just gonna go through the nine-month or so timeframe.” As time went by and I was failing to make progress, that didn’t seem to be something that I could count on anymore. I went through a phase where I wasn’t really sure if I was gonna be able to play again. It was difficult because not only was I not going to be able to play, but I ended up having to use crutches for a really long period. I couldn’t drive for three or four months, I couldn’t do much walking, I couldn’t spend that much time outside without it being really difficult.
Q: What led you to choose Renew Physical Therapy?
Willie: I chose Renew Physical Therapy because after a few months working with different physical therapists at a different place, I needed another surgery and I really just hadn’t made very much progress at all. My mom had heard from her friends and other people that had been to Renew Physical Therapy and had good experiences, so I thought it was a good idea to try something different after my second surgery, to see if I could get better results.
Q: How did the support from Renew Physical Therapy impact your motivation and mindset during the recovery process?
Willie: When I first came to Renew Physical Therapy, Matt looked at different things that were happening. It was the first time where I felt like I was really getting an explanation as to why things weren’t necessarily doing what we wanted them to. We were going to target certain things to improve those areas, and it was going to improve things overall. I remember when I first left, I had much more of a sense of optimism as far as where I was gonna be headed from here than I did previously.
Q: Were there any milestones or moments that stand out in your recovery process?
Willie: The main breakthrough moment that I can remember was when it was the first time that I actually ran. I just remember talking to Matt about how based on the tests we’d been doing, that I had safely reached that point. I remember him telling me that I can do it, I remember driving to the park after my appointment and going for a jog, and it hit me all at once – how much I had been going through as far as being on the crutches for close to six months, having no muscle and flexibility in my leg, to reaching that point.
Matt: The other big milestone was when he resigned with the Tacoma Stars, and being able to return to sport. Not only was he back to his prior level, but he was performing at a degree that was on par with his professional soccer playing. Athletes are prone to these traumatic injuries, much like Willie’s. The best way to reduce a risk of an injury is preventative management, and a lot of that stems from the aspects of physical therapy that we utilize.
Willie: I think the main thing I really noticed working with Matt was that I always had a feeling that things that were not where we wanted them to be, could improve. He was always very positive about, “This area is tight. This area is weak. But we can work on that.” Whereas before, I felt like I would leave physical therapy feeling very frustrated, worried, and stressed out. I always felt positive after working with Matt that we were moving in the right direction.
Q: As a physical therapist, what is your perspective of injury prevention for athletes?
Matt: I tailored Willie’s plan of care based on his high level of sport and exercise that he is required to perform while playing professional soccer. A lot of times when we have patients that are this high of level, it can be difficult to come up with challenging exercises. In turn, this was a challenge for Willie because he was a very strong and athletic person, however still required rehab and the education on what was the optimal type of exercise and progressions, in order for him to successfully return to sport safely.
Learn more about Willie’s recovery and working with Renew Physical Therapy on our YouTube Channel here.