Despite knee dislocations, Kim continues as sole CIF qualifier

It was 7:15 a.m. On cue, Lauren Kim’s (11) alarm buzzed. It was a typical school morning, and just like any other typical student, Kim begrudgingly got out of bed for school. But then she felt it. Kim’s knee cap had shifted from its original place and to the side of its socket. Her dislocated knee made her morning go from typical to atypical.

But, for Kim, the scenario isn’t entirely atypical. Kim has a condition called patellar tracking disorder—her knee cap can slide out of place whenever she straightens or bends her leg. She also has scar tissue and tendonitis in her right knee. Her disorder developed due the absence of a groove in her knee that caused the muscles around her knee to stretch. After dislocating her knee several times in sixth grade, the muscles around her knees never developed properly, making her prone to dislocation. Over the past six years, Kim estimates that her knee has dislocated around 50 times.

Her knee not only dislocates during strenuous physical activities like sports, but also during everyday activities such as walking or getting out of bed—it’s unpredictable.

“It happens regularly at least once a month,” Kim said. “Sometimes, when I’m walking and I turn wrong it’ll pop out and I can’t walk for about five to 10 minutes. When I walk, it’ll slide out because of momentum and my knee automatically locks. Usually, it slides back into place on its own because my muscles tighten up.”

Because of her knee disorder, Kim can’t run. And when she was diagnosed with the disorder in middle school, she was forced to quit basketball—her favorite sport at the time.

“Basketball was the sport I was going to grow up doing,” Kim said. “I couldn’t run anymore, so I knew couldn’t do basketball. It would make me upset because I would watch other people play basketball and I couldn’t play. I would just sit on the sidelines.”

Kim didn’t allow her knee to prevent her from playing sports altogether though. She took up water sports—sports that didn’t require running–and she excelled at them. She made varsity swim as a freshman. But her knee condition was still causing problems. Kim started developing back and hip problems as a result of it.

“The biggest thing that’s happened because of my knee is I’ve screwed up my hips and my back,” she said. “Because I try not to put as much pressure and weight on my left leg I’ve been putting it on my right. My hips are slightly unaligned and because of my hips, I have scoliosis now.”

Kim was getting frustrated, but she wanted to keep playing sports. So in her sophomore year, she tried out and made the golf team. Golf is suitable for Kim’s knee condition as it doesn’t stress her knee. Along with that, Kim says that golf has taught her patience, respect and etiquette as well as providing her with a sense of fulfillment and competition.This year she was the top-ranked player on the team and was recently the only Wolverine to compete at CIF playoffs.

“Golf satisfies my competitive drive,” Kim said. “I also like golf because there’s always room to improve and that drives me to always try to be better.”

Most of all, Kim says that the euphoria of hitting the perfect shot keeps her going in the hopes of hitting it again.

“Golf is a game of misses,” Kim said. “Sometimes I get into a slump and I have miss-hits over and over again.”

When Kim swings a miss-hit, she can feel it. Her club feels heavy, she feels like she just hit the ground, and hard vibrations run up her arm. However, when Kim hits the perfect shot, it’s effortless. Her club feels weightless, it feels like the ball isn’t even there, and the ball rings crisply and cleanly. And it’s those moments that make every miss-hit and all the frustration that comes with them become obsolete, and makes everything worth it for her.