Sally Shipard catches up with Sydney FC and Westfield Matildas player Lenna Khamis to talk through her rfecovery from a torn ACL.
I caught up with Leena Khamis last week. I wanted to touch base with the Sydney FC & Matildas striker to speak of her ACL rehab, she is currently eight months into a year-long rehab.
Ask any one of the Matildas ACL victims, Elise Kellond-Knight, Kim Carroll, Sarah Walsh, Danielle Brogan (just to name a few) and you will receive a similar from all of them about the process. All of them will let you know that the recovery is slow and frustrating, but all rehab must be done properly if returning and playing at your optimal level is your desire.
Her current phase of rehab consists of strength and conditioning work and recently she has been allowed to begin training with the ball, however without contact. This is an important phase of players returning from an ACL injury, usually resulting in a coloured bib so that people are reminded when in game situations.
SS: Leena, although no physical contact, how does it feel to be back chasing the round ball again?
LK: I was so excited to put my boots on and kick a ball. I have missed it so much and can-t wait to play again. I had a field session last Tuesday that went well. I felt good, touches weren-t so good [laughs], but they will get there.
SS: As unfortunate as it is for Brogs (SydneyFC team-mate Danielle Brogan) to have torn her ACL as well. It must be nice to have each other to work through the ‘phases- of rehabilitation?
LK: Brogs has made the process much easier. We have been motivating for each other, we can push that little bit more. It can be really difficult training on your own, I really don-t like doing things by myself, I find it quite boring and monotonous. As far as our injury status goes, Brogs is six weeks behind me but her recovery is going really well, her muscle development is advanced. So we are pretty much at the same point. As unfortunate as it is, this is her second ‘reco-, so she has done this all before which is helping too.
SS: I do find your tweets entertaining, between yourself and Brogs. What are deluxe prone holds exactly?
LK: [Laughs]... Well, at gym we-ve all been introduced to the normal static prone hold, which I find extremely difficult anyway. But this new element was introduced and I made a comment about them being ‘deluxe-. We laughed, might have been a ‘location situation-, but we did find it hilarious at the time.
Our new strength and conditioning coach at NSWIS is wonderful. He looks after Brogs, Heather and myself. We each have customised programs, very specific to football. He has been very refreshing, considering we-ve had very little direction at the beginning of our rehab.
SS: That all sounds wonderful indeed. Now Leena, how is everything else? Your coaching for example...
LK: I loved being involved with Sydney FC last W-League season. It was so great to see the girls play so well and win. Staj (Alen Stajcic) kept Brogs and I involved by offering us several ways to contribute. I took on the assistant coach position. The role was voluntary, we were not expected to be there every time but we were anyway. It was fun. I was in charge of the warm ups, the girls enjoyed the variety, you could tell. It was an eye opener seeing things from the side line. Which was an experience in itself. All that aside I-d still rather play than watch any day.
SS: By gaining this other perspective, do you think it will benefit your football?
LK: It will definitely benefit my football, I just don-t know how exactly. Perhaps little things like being patient and the experience side of things. We had a young squad and there were decisions made that you could tell lacked experience. It will be nice to get out there and be an influence, a leader. But Sal, you know what…it is all well and good talking about it, the true test will be when I begin playing.
Initially I was hesitant as to whether or not the girls would listen. I certainly had my doubts. One particular session Staj wasn-t there, so I stepped in and pretty much ran the whole training. It was amazing, they were all so receptive!! This was a big moment for me, I realised what kind of influence I could have.
SS: Speaking of influence, your younger sister Sham, is going so well. How much have you associated that with your own footballing success?
LK: Sham has done so well, couldn-t be any prouder. She has gone under the radar now for so long and I am so glad she has been identified. Without the help of her current goal keeping coach, and commitment as an athlete she would never have gotten a shot at the W-League. I am so proud of her. There is nothing better, I suppose you could say she-s following in my footsteps. She loves the game. Being new to the national team set-up, I won-t allow her to get overwhelmed by it all. She does speak to me a lot and I can help her out, because I have been there too. It will be great to one day play with her in the Matildas!
SS: Ok, so now we have the sisterly love stuff out of the way. How competitive are you both. You being a striker and her a goalkeeper...
LK: Funny that, because the last few years the competitiveness has increased. Whenever there-s a shooting drill, she tries extra hard to save my shots, we are both awfully competitive. Friendly competition of course.
SS: Leena, this whole process of returning from an ACL injury must feel so long. Surely you have been counting down the days...
LK: Oh, yes i am! At the end of August, the 28th exactly is my 12 months. I am aiming for September, then I will get a full pre-season in for W-League. If there were to be a positive, the timing for the beginning of the 2013/14 W-League is perfect. For now I am focussing on developing my strength, so that I have the strongest foundation possible.
SS: Leena, I am curious. Many people when they tear their ACL, it happens multiple times. How do you shake that thought?
LK: The thought does appear in the back of my mind, when you speak to ACL ‘people- you hear information that you don-t in fact want to. It only motivates me more so to get this rehab stuff right, building up strength is so important.
The first few sessions back running around, I was certainly more wary of it. I know that when i get fatigued my concentration levels have to double. And of course I am tiring quicker than I usually would, so I have to be cautious, but not overly. It is a fine line.
SS: I really admire your attitude is Leena, keep up the hard work. And let-s chase some leather shortly. Wana?