Keaton Radecki sensed something had gone awry in his right knee during Center Grove’s 1-0 boys soccer victory at Carmel in late August.
Like most competitors, the junior midfielder immediately shifted into best-case mode.
Radecki hoped the soreness would be diagnosed as nothing more than a twist. Perhaps he could be healthy enough to play in the Trojans’ next match, even if he had to sit out the remainder of this one.
And, yes, Radecki would go on to be an imperative component in whatever success his team enjoyed moving forward.
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Unfortunately, the first two didn’t happen.
Forced into spectator mode for the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and strained MCL (medial collateral ligament), Radecki continues to work his way back in order to be an important part of the 2015 team.
“I just remember running and then turning around and going for the ball. The bottom of my leg hit (an opponent’s) leg and just dislocated my knee. Immediately I fell to the ground,” Radecki said.
“This year and this next year we’re supposed to be one of the better teams in Center Grove history. We had a real good year, but I kind of missed out on it. I was really angry after I found out I had torn my ACL.”
Surgery was performed Oct. 15 by Dr. Kurt Martin of Greenwood Orthopedics.
Since then it’s been a series of gradual progressions for Radecki, from wheelchair to crutches to a bandage over the knee that allows him to walk.
“I started off in a wheelchair for a little bit,” he said. “That was kind of fun riding around the hallways and people pushing me. Then I moved on to crutches, and those just got tiring, so I had a wrap all around my leg and was able to walk with a limp.
“By December I was walking normal. Now I feel like I could play, but if I were to get hit (the knee) would probably hurt.”
He said his rehabilitation process prior to January included three visits weekly to Hayden Physical Therapy in Greenwood. Radecki also has committed himself to doing exercises at home designed to strengthen the muscles around his right knee and tries to ride his bicycle three to four miles as often as possible.
“I know Keaton was devastated when it happened, but he’s doing very well. He never shied away from contact, so I’m interested in seeing how he does there,” said Trojans coach Jameson McLaughlin, a 1994 Center Grove graduate and the program’s former junior varsity coach. “In soccer your knees are very heavily involved.
“You put so much force on them not just with running, but by planting.”
The entire scenario played like a movie Eric and Becky Radecki had already seen.
During Center Grove’s 2009 season the couple’s oldest son, Parker, then a sophomore, suffered a spiral fracture of his right tibia in a collision that virtually mirrored what Keaton experienced.
“When it happened it was sort of like déjà vu because Parker had a different injury, but what happened looked very similar,” Eric said. “Keaton has had a pretty good attitude about it all.
“He’s stayed at (his rehab) and still supports his teammates. That’s something as parents we’re proud of.”
Radecki won’t be taking part in spring competition. However, he expects to be back to form by the time practices for the fall season begin Aug. 3.
McLaughlin said he will soon get with Radecki and his parents along with Center Grove trainer Dave Buchholz to map out the best way to approach the weeks ahead.
“I’m for whatever Keaton is comfortable with. These are still young kids, and long-term health is my No. 1 priority for every kid,” McLaughlin said.
Both the injury and Radecki’s efforts to return to 100 percent have been valued lessons for a young athlete whose most severe injury prior to the ACL was a bruise.
“I’ve never had a serious injury until now. Nothing broken or torn,” Radecki said. “This has sort of humbled me and I feel like I have a new perspective.”
THE RADECKI FILE
Name: Keaton Radecki
Born: Springfield, Illinois
Family: Parents, Eric and Becky; brothers, Parker, 20, and Camden, 15
Favorite TV show: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Favorite food: Sub sandwiches
Favorite movie: “American Sniper”
Favorite athlete: Albert Pujols
Favorite team: Chelsea F.C.