NEW PALESTINE — When Trevor Woodall hobbled off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on his one good leg, the New Palestine High School Dragons football player was showered with congratulations from his teammates.
It wasn’t that Trever, a senior, had made a great play — it was the fact Trevor had the moxie to even step on the field in the first place.
Just before the season started, Trevor hurt his left knee in a scrimmage. A few weeks later he damaged the same knee further in the annual red and white preseason game, ending his senior year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Since then Trevor, 18, has rehabbed the knee like crazy, just to get in a game for one play. That happened when the Dragons took on Pendleton Heights this past weekend in downtown Indianapolis.
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As if the season-ending injury wasn’t enough bad news for the team and family, in the second game of the regular season, his twin brother Michael tore the same ACL, in the same knee, also ending his high school football career.
Still, the brothers remain a vital part of the Dragon’s push for another state championship. They attend every practice, film sessions and team functions offering instruction and inspiration as they watch the game they’ve been playing since youth — from the sideline.
“You kind of realize that you’re never going to ever be able to play football again, and it’s hard because you still want to be a part of it,” Trevor said.
Both seniors have been playing football since they were in the sixth grade and said seeing each other get hurt during their final year of high school football was devastating.
“We were hoping to at least play linebacker together this year,” Michael said. “But, when he went down, I realized that wasn’t going to happen, and then I got hurt.”
That was the hardest thing for Michael, when he realized he too had ripped his ACL, ending his high school career.
“I knew, the moment I got hurt, I was done for the season and it was hard,” Michael said. “We’ve been lifting and practicing with head coach (Kyle) Ralph for over 1,000 days now, and we can’t really do anything about being hurt and that’s kind of depressing.”
The brothers weren’t the only ones reeling from the injuries. Their coach was hit hard when both brothers went down.
“Going out there to get Trevor was terrible, but then having to go out and get Michael was just heart breaking,” Ralph said. “To have the family and the kid go through that once, and then two weeks later to have the family have to go through that again … I’ve never been a part of something like that before.
“You feel sick for them and their family.”
Despite the obvious physical and mental anguish, the team and the two brothers have moved forward.
Both Trevor and Michael said they decided to keep their heads up and do more than just cheer on the team.
Trevor rehabbed, working for the chance to get in for that one play and the coaching staff put both players to work. Trevor has coached some of the younger receivers and linebackers while Michael has been helping his replacement on the line.
“I talked to them about wanting them to stay around the program,” Ralph said. “Michael has been a starter for us for a couple of years now, and I talked to him about being kind of a player-coach … the offensive line guys respect him a tremendous amount.”
Cindy Swain Marshall, Trevor and Michael’s mother, said the injuries were tougher on her than her sons. She said they have always had a positive, productive outlook since they were kids.
“After a few days of moping around, which I honestly have to say they didn’t do, I did it for them. They didn’t whine about it or complain about it,” she said. “They’ve just moved on.”
Both players will have surgery to repair their knees at different times in October.
Experts said damaging an ACL is one of the most common knee ligament injuries and that genetics may even dictate who is susceptible.
According to orthoinfo.aaos.org athletes who participate in high-demand sports like football are more likely to hurt an ACL.
A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine looked at a pair of fraternal twin girls to analyze the angle of their knees and pivoting maneuvers.
When the girls were observed, their knees were measured and had never experienced an ACL tear. Within a year of the observation, both girls tore their ACLs along with their sister, who was not evaluated.
According to the study, after reviewing the observation data, it showed that both girls angled one knee outward when landing and they had narrower than average notches. Both conditions have been identified as risk factors for an ACL tear.
The Woodall twins said regardless of whether their injuries were genetics, a bad hit or just plan old bad luck, it doesn’t really matter. It’s their response and having a positive outlook to the injury that is what’s most important.
Their coach agrees.
“We talk to the kids all the time about ‘win the day’ attitude attacking things with a positive approach and trying to make the best of what ever situation you are put in,” Ralph said.
Those who know the twins said it’s a football and life lesson the Woodall seniors have learned well.