Brooke Wilson knows what a broken bone sounds like. She has fractured her pinky, her back and her arm — twice.
So when she heard her leg snap in practice last Wednesday, she knew what the deal was.
“We all heard it crack,” she said. “I knew it was broken.”
Arizona’s star freshman fractured her right leg and will be sidelined six to eight weeks.
It was a freak injury. Wilson and other UA forwards were making uncontested runs when she somehow got her leg caught underneath her as she received a pass, then collapsed on top of it.
“You couldn’t predict that would happen, you couldn’t draw that up, you couldn’t do it if you tried,” said UA head coach Tony Amato.
There is never a good time for an injury, but this is almost worst-case scenario. Not only was Wilson playing great soccer — she had three goals and an assist in her last five games — but the timetable for recovery means there is a legitimate chance her season is over.
Arizona’s regular season finale against ASU is on Nov. 2, roughly seven weeks from when she sustained the injury. And she can’t bubble wrap her leg and play through the pain like she did when she fractured her arm.
“I was crying for 24 hours,” Wilson said when she learned of the recovery time. “Then (assistant coach) Kate (Norton) told me that I had 24 hours to cry and eat whatever I wanted.”
But Wilson was too sad to eat.
“She would be in the bathroom and would just start crying,” said midfielder Emily Knous, Wilson’s roommate. “It was really hard to watch.”
Wilson was in searing pain, yes, but she also lost soccer, which is much more than a game for her. It’s where she finds solace from the ups and downs of everyday life.
“Every emotion that I have through the day, soccer gets rid of everything,” she said. “It almost puts me into a completely different person when I’m focused on the game. And not being able to do that is so frustrating, but now I’m trying to change that mentality to when I’m doing the little recovery things that I can do right now.”
Which isn’t much. Wilson won’t be able to walk for two weeks. She uses a scooter to get around, resting her right leg on it as she pushes with her left.
“This is my new little buddy right now,” she said, patting it gently.
Opening doors and weaving up and down the ramps of McKale Center is an adventure. So is maneuvering around campus where every crack or bump in the road results in shooting pain.
“In front of the coaches’ office there’s a rock pavement instead of sidewalk and riding over that is the worst thing I’ve ever done in my life,” she said.
The first couple days after Wilson’s injury were particularly challenging, but she had some help. Her mother trekked down from Southern California for a few days and, as Wilson described it, “made things happen.”
She forced Wilson to trade in her loose boot for the tight one she wears now, and a wheelchair for the scooter.
“She’s a crazy lady,” Wilson said, “but she was a miracle.”
So was Knous.
“The first two days before my mom got here, she was carrying me literally into the shower. She had to get me in her car and that’s when I was in excruciating pain,” Wilson said. “She was definitely an All-Star.”
Wilson said Knous probably thinks she’s a handful.
“There’s definitely been a lot of tasks,” Knous laughed, “but I’ve tried my best to not make it overwhelming for her, but hopefully she knows she’s not a pain. I’m glad I’ve been able to be there for her and help her through the process. It’s definitely hard watching someone that close to you go through it, but she’s been in a champ in handling it all, so hopefully she gets through the healing process quickly.”
That’s Wilson’s plan. Now that the initial shock has worn off, she is upbeat and confident. She has overcome several injuries before, so what’s one more?
“I’ve broken my right arm and my left pinky. They both healed fine, so this is going to be fine, too,” she said.
Wilson even has a return date in mind.
“I know I’m not negative but usually when you hear of an injury that might be season-ending, you kind of say, ‘OK, my season is probably over’ but right now I’m optimistic about being back for the ASU game,” she said.
Wilson is frustrated she can’t take the field with her teammates when they begin Pac-12 play this week, but her eyes widen when she talks about them.
“They’re going to shock people this year,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see how many people are getting goals and assists. All of our defenders have scored this year. Every single one of them. Isn’t that crazy? That shows how much depth we have in our team and how we don’t need to rely on one person to score goals.”
The Wildcats are 7-1 and have won seven straight games, their best start in the Amato era. TopDrawerSoccer ranks them as the No. 19 team in the country.
It has all the makings to be a special season, and Wilson hopes to return at some point to help them continue their winning ways. Until then, she will be yelling and screaming from the sideline with her scooter nearby.
“I’m really excited to see where they go and I’m going to be the cheerleader,” she said. “That’s for sure.”