As a young girl, Samantha Grams was always involved in sports, mostly through her local park district and school teams. Once she learned about competitive opportunities in high school, Samantha was a multi-sport athlete until her junior year when she chose to focus specifically on volleyball.
Right before her senior season, Samantha tore her ACL.
To say recovery was a struggle is an understatement.
“I didn’t fully recover until halfway through my sophomore year of my college career at Northern Illinois University (NIU),” recalled Samantha of the mental, physical, and performance struggles during that time of healing.
Just when Samantha thought she had turned a corner, that same year, she tore the ACL in her other knee.
“It took until about the age of 28 until I wasn’t in constant pain in my knees, back, foot, and hip,” said Samantha. “I felt like a total failure.”
From D1 college ball at Northern Illinois University and eventually Director of Operations for her team, Samantha went on to be an ESPN color commentator, club coach, and eventually, a physical therapist.
Now Co-owner of Empower Women's Health in St. Charles, Illinois, Samantha’s on a mission to help athletes avoid negative experiences in sports, especially those related to injuries.
“Sports should be a positive experience for our young athletes,” says Samantha. “I know they shaped my life significantly and I would not trade my experiences for anything, however, injuries can play a debilitating and negative part.”
Armed with her own successful history in sports and intimate knowledge of recovering from injury, Dr. Grams offers a triad of support, helping athletes:
Feel empowered by listening to their goals and providing a safe space to be heard.
In terms of youth sports, Dr. Grams emphasizes that it’s important to recognize the increased competitive nature is leading to earlier sports specialization. While opportunities to play at a higher and advanced level seem positive, the reality is that a child’s body is not able to withstand the repetitive movements that come with sports specialization.
“This often leads to increased injuries, decreased performance, and earlier drop-out of sports,” explained Dr. Grams.
So, how can parents help their athletes avoid the negative effects of injuries?
Dr. Grams recommends preventing overuse injuries: