JESSE LOUIE

Caprice Dydasco is a defender for Sky Blue FC of the NWSL. In the lead-up to the Challenge Cup, she tore her ACL in training and had to miss the tournament. She recently sat down with Just Women’s Sports to talk about her injury, documenting her recovery on social media, and the success of the NWSL’s Challenge Cup.

Can you talk us through your recent ACL injury?

So this injury happened on June 1st. It was our second week back to training after quarantine and it was just a freak thing. The sprinklers went off at training, so we stopped working. When we continued, I went in for a tackle and my back foot slipped because it was a little slippery, and as I tried to recover, I just heard my knee buckle. It was my third one [ACL tear], so I heard the pop and I tried to be in denial for a little, but as I was walking off the field it just gave out. Right then I knew that I had torn my ACL again.

Luckily, I was able to get diagnosed quickly with a torn ACL and MCL and within two weeks I was able to get surgery. I then stayed in New Jersey and New York for two weeks before coming back home to Hawaii.

I’m now six weeks out of surgery and I’m feeling really good. My physical trainer here has been really happy with my progress, and throughout this recovery, I’ve been keeping in touch with the team and our staff. I’m making really good progress and my goal is to be back for 2021.

This unfortunately isn’t the first time you’ve torn your ACL, so when this happened again, you already knew what it was?

Yeah. Every athlete’s nightmare is hearing that sound and after hearing that pop twice before, I was like, “There’s no way this is ever going to happen to me again.” It’s really strange because every single time it has happened, I’ve felt the best I’ve ever felt physically – just super in shape, playing really well, playing the best I’ve ever played – and it’s always something you just cannot prepare for.

As soon as you hear that noise, you just know right away. You go into waves of denial, of like, “Oh, I didn’t tear my ACL. Maybe it’s just a hyperextension,” and then you go to walk and your knee gives out. Then the roller coaster of emotions hits you until you finally get your MRI back, and then you’re like, “Okay, at least I know for a fact that this is what it is.”

Do you approach this injury the same way as the previous two? 

So the first two, I tore just my ACL. This time around, I tore my ACL and MCL, so it was a little bit longer of a process to recover because it takes a longer time to heal. With just a torn ACL, you start doing rehab right after surgery, but for a torn MCL you have to be a little bit more tender with it.

Knowing this, as soon as I hurt my knee, I knew that I had to be strong going into surgery because that helps the recovery after surgery. I also knew that I had to start bending my knee right after surgery. So my slight experience in this field definitely helped some of those little things, plus knowing how to prepare mentally for surgery. For this third one, I’m like, “All right. It is what it is. Let’s just do it.”

2020 has been a pretty wild year. Has quarantine affected your recovery at all?

I would say it’s a little bit more normal now than when quarantine first started during preseason. I think back then it was harder because we needed to physically go out and train and be around the team and stuff, but rehab is a very individual thing, So I’m able to do that on my own and I’m very lucky that physical therapy is considered “essential” because it’s open and I have full access to it.

I have a really good relationship with my physical therapist and I’ve been seeing him since I was 12. So I’m able to go in every day and he’s able to give me everything that I need. I also got really lucky with surgery because at the time of my tear, the hospital had just reopened the week before. So they were able to fit me in in the middle of this pandemic and all of the testing going on.

What has a typical day in Hawaii been like? That doesn’t seem like the worst place to be stuck during all this.

Honestly, I would’ve rather been in Utah. But I’m lucky that my family and my parents are very supportive of me and they’re always here in Hawaii, so it’s really not a bad place to be for recovery.

Every morning I wake up, have breakfast, coffee, and then I’ll go to PT. I’ve also been trying to spend time with my grandparents and my family as much as I can while I’m here, so I’ll go to lunch with my grandparents. Typically, I go to the beach in the afternoons just for a little swim and then have dinner with my friends or my family. So it’s very chill when I’m home. There’s not much that’s open, but it’s been nice. Since quarantine, I’ve become a professional chiller.

We’ve seen a side of your recovery on the Instagram Account @ScarredTogether. Can you talk to us about this organization and what it’s like to go through the injury process with 4 other NWSL athletes?

So, Jordan Angeli is the founder of The ACL Club, and I’ve known her for a few years. She’s always been super supportive and as soon as I tore my ACL again, my agent and I jumped on a call with her to discuss documenting my recovery while using my platform on the ACL Club’s account.

So that’s how it all started. I was the first one to tear my ACL, but as soon as the tournament started, unfortunately, there was one tear after another, after another. When you tear your ACL, you just have this weird bond with each other because you’re going through the same issues and you all have this scar to show for it. When you’re an athlete, you just put so much work in, and then when it happens, it’s so devastating.

Jordan and I talked about how amazing it is for athletes to bond together during these circumstances and we wanted to show other people what we’re going through. This platform allows us to collaborate with so many other people going through all kinds of injuries and I think it’s really cool to see that we all go through the same struggles, same downs, and same ups. Hopefully, we can help each other out through this whole process and go tackle obstacles together. Eventually, I would love to organize something where we have Instagram Lives and have people ask questions about anything – physically or mentally. I want to use this platform as an open and safe space for people to be vulnerable and share their thoughts.

Shifting gears to NWSL Challenge Cup, what was the team’s mindset going into that? 

At the beginning of quarantine, we were all just training on our own at home and it was hard because we thought this was going to be a week or a month-long thing. We’d get workouts weekly and the staff would say like, “Okay, maybe another month of this.”

It was hard to stay motivated during this whole process, leading up to July, but eventually, we heard from the league about this potential month-long tournament. That’s when the buzz started to go around and there were plenty of mixed emotions. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and they’re asking us to go somewhere remote for a month and we had no idea what the health risks were and no clue where we were going to live.

Even with these mixed emotions, I think our staff did a great job in relaying all the information needed to make sure we felt prepared and comfortable way before anyone was to step foot in Utah.

What were your thoughts on how the league handled this return?

Lisa Baird, our commissioner, did an amazing job of making sure that all the players were involved in the decision making. They ran a bunch of surveys and league calls to make sure that everyone felt comfortable and all of our questions were answered before heading there.

So it was a really good combination of everyone’s input of what needed to be done for everyone to feel safe. And once the girls got there, they told me that the bubble felt really safe and secure.

It takes the whole league’s effort to make something like this work. Everyone involved was fully invested in following all of the rules, and I think that’s why it worked out so well.

How do you think your club, Sky Blue FC, fared throughout it all?

I was just so bummed the way it ended. I felt like if they had just five more minutes, they would’ve tied it up. But it’s encouraging and awesome that we feel this way – that we’re very disappointed in not making it to the finals. We just know the potential of this team and where we can go and it’s going to be exciting for everyone to come back, be hungry again and bring that same attitude and that feeling from losing into next season.

Looking ahead, what are some of your goals as you prepare for your 7th NWSL Season in 2021?

At the beginning of this season, I finally got a hold of the league and my style of play. I just felt really good. This year, I know my body’s a little older, so I just want to listen to it and take this recovery day-by-day. I know I don’t have to rush because time is on my side, but I would love to just work on just feeling strong.

And then once I’m ready to start playing again, I just really want to focus on working from the ground up. This isn’t a make-or-break year for me, but I’d rather not have people consistently bring up that I tore my ACL last year. I would want them to focus instead on how hard I worked this offseason.

Ultimately, I’m really stoked to just be around the team and get going again.