Injuries are commonplace in youth sports. Growing athletes find themselves wrapped up in tight competition and over-extend their physical capabilities, leading to muscle strains, tears and even broken bones. Accidental slips wreak havoc on ligaments and other connective tissues.
All of these issues are expected risks whenever a young athlete takes the field. Still, what John Verzi has persevered through in suburban Philadelphia goes far beyond simple injuries; the senior soccer player has survived six knee surgeries and still come back to compete on the field.
As covered by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Verzi returned to play his senior season at Delran (Pa.) High after suffering a truly unbelievable string of bad injuries which forced him into six different knee surgeries during his prior three seasons. Verzi, who is a forward, suffered three different tears of his anterior cruciate ligament, each time requiring a pair of knee surgeries. The ACL tears came evenly spaced, requiring the six surgeries over a 28-month period and keeping him from lasting through a single high school season … until his senior year.
That's when, finally healthy, Verzi earned a spot on the Delran varsity squad. After three years of near constant rehabilitation, the striker was finally back on the field, serving as an inspiration for his team as a result.
"I've never witnessed that kind of determination and love for the game," Delran coach Mike Otto told the Inquirer. "Quite honestly, I never thought he'd come back to the field. It's nothing short of a miracle."
Even Verzi himself admits that there were plenty of times where he didn't know how he could gather the strength to make it back. Each time, he did nonetheless.
"There were plenty of times when I would think, 'How am I going to get through this?' " Verzi told the Inquirer. "But I just knew that I had to. Deep down, I always knew that I would."
The payoff was almost immediate when the senior finally got on the field. Playing in his first high school game on Sept. 21, Verzi scored a goal, flashing the talent that had once made him a hopeful for the Olympic Development Program.
The Inquirer runs through the entire gamut of knee injuries that led to Verzi's series of surgeries, one of which even required a bone graft for his knee before it could be performed.
Yet, no matter how many obstacles were thrown in Verzi's way, he somehow always managed a way to maintain faith in his ability to come back, right up to the point when he finally did.
"It's just a surreal feeling being back," Verzi said. "Getting to this point was a long struggle, a day-in and day-out grind. But it's made me stronger as a person. I feel like I can tackle anything that comes my way in life.
"You just have to push through when times are tough."