Murphy slides into sports medicine

Sundays at Petco Park were a constant during Kristen Murphy’s (12) childhood. Her dad was a huge Padres fan, and the pair would go down to watch the games together frequently. A season ticket owner since the age of 7, and a softball player since the age of 11, her love for baseball and softball came at a young age.

“I really like [softball] because it’s not just physical activity,” Murphy said. “There’s a whole strategy involved with baseball and softball that is unique [compared to] other sports. It’s a deeply intelligent game that’s more than about physically being able to do something.”

With four years of recreational softball under her belt, Murphy joined the Westview team as a freshman, where she excelled by batting .333, whereas most high school players bat around .250. She planned to continue playing softball throughout high school, but faced a huge obstacle at the start of her junior year.

During the late afternoon on Feb. 20, 2017, Murphy went down to the Westview softball field, ready for tryouts. She said she felt nervous, although she had been on the team for two years; after all, it was varsity tryouts. Everything went smoothly until Murphy used the wrong foot to round first base, twisting her knee while running.

Her heart was racing as she sat in the waiting room of her doctor’s office. After an MRI, her doctor announced that the meniscus in Murphy’s knee, which is responsible for shock absorption, was chipped out of place. Her heart sank as the doctor told her that she needed surgery on her knee, and recommended she sit out the rest of the season.

Just like that, she was in for a year full of physical therapy appointments, a year of sitting in the dugout during games, a year without playing the sport that she loved. At first, this seemed impossible to Murphy. But over time, with endless support from her family and her teammates, she came to accept her injury and focused on healing.

Despite her injury, Murphy still came to every game. She said that her teammates still made her feel welcomed by making sure she still had her own way to contribute to the team, whether that be tracking pitches or starting cheers. After her knee surgery, however, she had to undergo physical therapy for about an hour a week, which slowly but surely helped her regain strength.

“Sometimes when it would get hard, like if I was struggling to finish a set, I would say one of my softball teammates’ names for each [repetition] to remind myself what I was doing [physical therapy] for,” Murphy said.

It was during this period of time that Murphy discovered a passion for sports medicine and athletic training. Although both her parents work in healthcare, Murphy said working in that field had never crossed her mind until she spent hours with her physical therapist.

Wanting to help others in a similar position as her, Murphy enrolled in the sports medicine class on campus. Learning the ins and outs of athletic training by shadowing Christina Scherr, the school’s athletic trainer, Murphy decided that she wanted to take her training to the next level.

She volunteered to become an athletic training student aide for Scherr outside of class, where she was able to advance her sports medicine training.

“I realized that not only did I like the application of [sports medicine], but the science behind it was something that I could comprehend and care about— that was something that clicked with me,” Murphy said. “I get to see firsthand that [athletic training] is not just ankle tapes and filling water bottles. Athletic trainers play a key role in the safety and health of student athletes everywhere.”

Part of her training with Scherr allowed her experience the rush of a football game from the field instead of the bleachers. She got to see how Scherr handled a variety of situations, applying her training on the spot, and has gained a more thorough understanding of the demands of the profession.

Murphy has become CPR, AED, and first aid certified through a class for student aides taught by Scherr, and helps during games by stocking first aid kits, making ice bags, and preparing Gatorade.

After an entire year of physical therapy, Murphy was cleared just in time to play in her very last season, which she said was a bittersweet feeling.

She said her team was glad to have her back, and although she was no longer being treated, she continued her work with Scherr and learn more about sports medicine.  Murphy will continue to learn about sports medicine, as she has committed to study sports medicine at the University of Utah College of Health in the fall.

“It was really nice to take from my own experience and then figure out that that’s something I want to help other people [with] in [similar]  situations,” Murphy said.

Eager to continue her studies, Murphy said she is glad she managed to turn her injury into a positive experience.