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12/Brandi Chastain Prevention of ACL Injuries July 10, 1999 A 30-year-old native of San Jose, California, stood outside the penalty box in the Rose Bowl. A record crowd of 90,185 and an estimated 40 million American fans watching on TV held their breath. After 90 minutes in the 1999 Women’s World Cup final, the United States and China were scoreless. Two 15-minute sessions in extra time did not produce a victory. After four out of five successful penalty kicks by the Chinese and four kicks netted by the Americans, Brandi Chastain stepped up to take the final penalty kick. A ball past China’s Gao Hong meant victory—and the Women’s World Cup title—for the United States. Less than four months earlier, Chastain had faced an almost identical situation . In the Algarve Cup in Portugal, she had lined up for a penalty against China. Years later, in a speech to the graduating class of her alma mater, Santa Clara University, she recalled that moment: “I put the ball down. I looked up, and the goalkeeper was standing there, and she unnerved me. She got me out of my zone, and I missed, and we ended up losing that tournament.”1 After China’s Sun Wen kicked to even up the penalties at 4–4, Chastain calmly stepped up. Chastain now had the opportunity to avenge that miss and bring home the World Cup for her country. Using her left foot to take a penalty kick for the first time, she sailed the ball past Hong into the top right corner of the net. It became “The Kick Heard ’Round the World.” That kick and Chastain’s ensuing celebration—taking off her jersey and swinging it wildly in the air—became an iconic moment in the history of women’s soccer. One injury has also become synonymous with women’s soccer. It has sidelined many of Chastain’s US Women’s National Team (USWNT) teammates—past and present. That injury is an ACL injury. Chastain has suffered that injury—twice. 196 / That’s Gotta Hurt Chastain loved playing soccer from the first time she played in a girls’ league in San Jose. She told Joann Weiner of the Washington Post, “as soon as that ball hit the ground and I kicked it the first time, I fell in love, and it has been my passion ever since.”2 That passion helped her excel. She led her high school team to three California state titles. As a freshman at the University of California at Berkeley, Chastain earned the Soccer America Freshmen Player of the Year award. Then injury struck. Chastain tore her ACL in the spring of 1987. It took her about a year to get back to 100% with no issues on the field. “This is not something you get over very quickly,” Chastain explained. “I would say that there was a lot of sadness about not being on the field. I absolutely love playing soccer and have never needed to be on the sideline before.”3 She later transferred to Santa Clara University. In the same month that she accepted the scholarship to go there, she tore the ACL in her opposite knee. Since the season would start months later, she pushed to return. “I was back on the field in six months, but not fully 100%, but I probably could play through the season,” she recalled.4 Brandi Chastain missed two entire years of college soccer recovering from those ACL tears. Those injuries were not the only setbacks in a career capped by triumph in Pasadena. Chastain made that USWNT in 1988 and played on the 1991 team that won the World Cup. Only two years later, coach Anson Dorrance cut her from the team. She claims that getting cut from the US team was critical to her later success. “Getting cut was the most important thing in my career,” Chastain told the Monterey County Weekly. “Not being on first World Cup team [in 1991], not scoring the [1999 World Cup] goal, but coming back.”5 That dismissal sparked a change. Chastain trained at a relentless level until she finally made it back into the pool of eligible players for the national team. The US coach, Tony DiCicco, told her that to make it back to the team, she would have to transition to defense, despite a career as a goal-scoring striker. Even that 1999 dream moment almost failed to...


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