Injury to victory: the recovery of Chris McKinzy

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Injury to victory: the recovery of Chris McKinzy

Braden Zaner, Reporter

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This past April, in the heat of the track season, star athlete senior Chris McKinzy was attempting a simple drill when he tore his ACL; oftentimes a career-ending injury. Some coaches held their breath and feared the worst. Others jumped to grim conclusions. However, just five months later and McKinzy is back on the field, ready to dominate the game once more.

McKinzy is a track athlete, as well as a four-time varsity football player. He holds the school record as well as back-to-back state championships in the 110-meter hurdles. Yet, his success is not limited to Track. He’s a part of the football team, not only as a cornerback but as a leader too.

“Chris’s work ethic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He hasn’t missed a practice, he was there over the summer… I’m so proud of that kid, he’s a big part of us,” said Athletic Director Tom Kruse.

But just after a series of first place finishes in track, disaster struck. While attempting a simple hurdle exercise McKinzy took a wrong step. The resulting injury would affect McKinzy for months to come.

“He was at practice doing a drill he’s done 10,000 times. A freak thing happened and he tore his ACL,” said Kruse.

Details on the injury are scarce. The exact diagnosis was a completely torn ACL and meniscus. More medical info is restricted. Trainer Trevor Volkland, who worked with Chris during his recovery, has few details to spare.

I obviously can’t account on too many details about his injuries as that would break the HIPPA laws,” said Volkland.

McKinzy himself said that he stepped over the hurdle with ease. The trouble came when his lead leg lowered towards the ground. For unknown reasons, the muscle was hyperextended. This is often said to be a painful injury.

“When it happened I didn’t think I’d torn it. When I got the MRI I was devastated and shocked,” said McKinzy.

Coaches and athletes were surprised and upset. The news that McKinzy wouldn’t be able to finish his track season was certainly disheartening, but long term concerns plagued his cohorts. Not only was his senior football season at stake, but McKinzy’s career as an athlete was too.

“I hurt for Chris. My son tore his ACL and it’s just such a grind. But I knew when he said ‘I will be back for homecoming’, he would be there in five months,” said Kruse.

While he briefly battled with sadness, McKinzy made it his mission to persevere through the pain. In order to begin restrengthening his ACL, McKinzy would need to go through a surgery on his leg. Going into this surgery, he remained upbeat.

 “I was actually positive. Usually, people get down. I had the mindset of ‘everything happens for a reason, I just have to keep moving forward,” said McKinzy. 

While McKinzy’s coaches were pleased with his positive attitude, it takes hard work and determination to recover from a torn ACL. Chris not only strove to be a leader at his prime but also strove for excellence in his injured state. He showed perseverance levels beyond what peers expected.  

“Most people get wheeled out of the surgery. He walked to the car. That is unbelievable. He’s such a fine-tuned athlete. He’s just different. Athletes like that come along very seldom,” said Kruse.

McKinzy jumped into training immediately. These workouts were just as strenuous as any football or track event McKinzy had ever done. His legs were stretched and strengthened until they were faster than ever. While his legs rested he pushed his upper body to the max. As his leg healed McKinzy began to focus on footspeed, jumping, cutting, and endurance. Gradually, he began to become his old self again. Along the way, all kinds of people supported him.

“I’d like to thank the physical therapy people, Janae, family members, friends, but mostly god. The people at Boost in Belton and Lees Summit really helped me too,” said McKinzy.

By late August McKinzy was nearly back to his best state. He begged his superiors to get back into the game. McKinzy’s doctor continued to hold him back. Any injury could end his career for good. Finally, just before the Homecoming game, McKinzy was released to play. The coaches planned his return with concern.

“There’s always apprehension, especially with Chris. The farther along we get with this, the more comfortable he’ll get,” said Kruse.

McKinzy made his return on the night of the Homecoming game against Belton. His time on the field was short, but he managed to pick up a tackle. McKinzy and his teammates were thrilled with the play. The coaches all reveled in the excitement of the moment. Fans cheered at the thought that McKinzy was finally back.

“It felt good… real good. I was fired up. It was emotional, I gave everybody hugs, I said thanks. We all cried together,” said McKinzy.

As the season continues McKinzy will get even more playtime. While he might not be at 100 percent yet, coaches claim that he has more than earned his Varsity spot. Still, he remains humble about his success, choosing to inspire rather than boast.

“This is all God’s plan, it was a blessing. Never give up. If you put your mind to it you can do anything,” said McKinzy.

As McKinzy plays more and more his support from athletes, coaches, and students alike has only grown. He plans on playing for entire games by the end of the season, with his coach’s permission. McKinzy also intends to reclaim his state hurdle title this coming spring, before moving his career to the college level.