Keene State College (KSC) junior Melissa Wydra wasn’t going to let Tommy John surgery end her career of being a student-athlete.
About seven months ago, Wydra tore her UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament).
Wydra is a thrower on the track and field team. She throws javelin, discus, hammer, shot put and she throws weights only during the indoor season. She has scored the top five in the Little East Conference (LEC) every year. She was born and raised in Enfield, Connecticut. She started her career when she was in sixth grade, but javelin was her main concentration, starting her junior year of high school. Her junior and senior year, she won big conference meets and she won the state championship her senior year.
Tommy John surgery is a surgical operation in which a ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body (often from the forearm, hamstring or foot of the patient). The procedure was developed by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974 for pitcher Tommy John, for whom the surgery is named.
Last year in the first weekend of April is when she got injured during a meet. “I felt a pain that I never felt before. My arm swelled to the size of a tennis ball around my elbow and it was just throbbing. My hand and forearm went completely numb,” Wydra said.
She first went to a surgeon, who told her she needed the Tommy John surgery. Just for a second opinion, she went to another surgeon. This surgeon recommended physical therapy, but after three months of physical therapy with no change, she had to get surgery.
Wydra got the Tommy John surgery in the first weekend of September.
“I was apprehensive about the surgery at first. That’s why I went and got a second opinion and saw pictures of people who’ve gone through the surgery. Even though there’s more positives than negatives, I always put myself in the negative category,”Wydra said.
Wydra’s teammate Alex Magoon, who is also a thrower for KSC, met her when he was a sophomore and Wydra was a first-year joining the team.
When describing Wydra, he said, “She is a positive influence on everyone on the team. She also is always willing to help a teammate in need and put herself second if it means bettering someone else’s performance,” said Magoon. Even with her being injured, Magoon explained that she still comes to the meets post-injury for team support and he said it means a lot.
The average recovery time from the surgery is eight to 10 months, but Wydra is on her seventh month and she’s already back on the field practicing. “The hardest part for me was realizing that I couldn’t throw at 100 percent and that I wasn’t going to be PR-ing every throw like I used to. Taking it slow and staying focused and hoping that I could continue to contribute to the success of the team has been my main goal. Keeping my new elbow healthy, while also understanding that I’m fixed now has been a big mental challenge for me that my coaches and teammates have really helped me through,” Wydra said.
After Wydra went through with the surgery, she explained it was a learning experience for her. “It was more of a learning experience for me because I want to be surgeon one day. They answered so many questions for me and let me watch a lot,” she said. She now goes to physical therapy with the athletic trainers here and she’s in there only twice a week now. “They’ve been absolutely amazing,” Wydra said.
Head cross country and track and field coach Tom Pickering did not respond to multiple requests to comment.
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