Martino and Isaeblla talk about their recovery.
BROCKWAY, Pa. – For any athlete, hearing you have an ACL tear is one of the worst moments of your playing career.
For a high school senior it can be devastating because it possibly means the end of your playing career.
But for two Brockway seniors, those words didn’t let them stop believing they would return to the field of competition before they graduated.
Mike Martino and Tony Isabella were tagged to be two of the linchpins on the Rovers football team that was going to enter 2015 with high expectations.
But then their worlds suddenly changed a little under two months apart.
First, Martino, a highly touted linebacker, wrestler and baseball player, tore his ACL in 7-on-7 drills on the last day of July.. Then, Isabella, who was averaging over 130 yards per game rushing, injured his in Week Four of the football season, Sept. 25.
The news seemed a bit better for Martino than for Isabella.
Because Martino’s tear happened before any season started, there was a chance he could return to competition by April and baseball season – an ACL injury is usually a minimum nine to 12 month recovery time before an athlete can play again.
For Isabella, his chances of getting back on the playing field before graduation seemed slim to none.
But neither athlete was having anything to do with normal recovery periods, and both found themselves back in the middle of competition before anyone expected.
Martino, in fact, actually put on a football uniform and served as the long snapper during the District 9 postseason, which ended in Brockway losing in the final minute to Kane in the Class A title game. A recovery time of a little over 3 ½ months. He then took about a month off from the wrestling mat, and was the District 9 runner-up at 170 pounds. He is now fully in place as the starting third baseman on the Rovers baseball team.
“It’s your last opportunity to represent the school,” Martino said when asked what his motivation to get back so quickly was. “You work so hard your whole career, you just don’t want it to end like the way it was supposed to. So, you just rehab as hard as you can. I exercised three or four times a day just to get back for my teammates, mostly.”
Isabella, meanwhile, found himself back in the mix by the beginning of April, a little over six months after having surgery on his ACL, as a starting outfielder for the Rovers.
“Mikey was a big inspiration,” Isabella said about his quicker than usual recovery. “We pretty much had the same thing except for some slight differences. Whenever I saw him come back so quick, it just made me want to work harder to get back just as fast as him.”
Martino said his doctor couldn’t believe how fast he was recovering.
“When I went down to the doctors for my 3 ½-month checkout, they looked at my knee and they actually thought I had gotten my surgery at the beginning of the summer. They thought I was at 6 ½ or 7 months. I just knew I was getting the right rehab and I went to the right doctors for what I needed. I was very happy with all of that.”
Isabella said he realized he had a shot at getting back in time for baseball in late January/early February.
“I got cleared in six months, so it was probably about four months in when I realized I might be able to get back,” Isabella said. “I went to see the doctor, I thought thought he was going to be like you are going to be out eight months. But he said I was way ahead of schedule and that around the 5- or 6-month range I would be back.”
Both athletes credited their families and teammates for helping in their recovery.
My family, my mom and dad and my teammates, they all pushed me everyday,” Martino said. “Down in (football) triple days and camp and stuff, they really wanted me to get back for my senior year. My football teammates wanted me to be there and a big a part of it. They let me be a captain and call the coin flip and everything. It really made my life a lot easier and the injury much better.”
Isabella said his mom and dad really pushed him in his rehab.
“They pushed me so hard to get back because they knew it was my last year,” Isabella said. “They knew if I wasn’t going to play my last year, I would always look back and regret it.”
Like Martino, Isabella said his teammates helped him stay positive.
“Just going to practice and seeing everyone still having fun was helpful,” Isabella said. “I noticed nothing really changed (with our team) when I left. They just had to work harder.”
Martino said he told Isabella not to let anyone tell him when he should come back.
“I said, don’t let the doctor tell you when you can get back,” Martino said. “Don’t let other people tell you you can’t come back. Everyone says the ACL is the big one, and you are out for the year. You just can’t listen to everybody else. Make your own legacy.”
Isabella put it quite simply.
“You just do you,” Isabella said. “It’s going to be a long recovery. But in the end, it’s worth it.”