The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News 2

April 11, 2014

Against all odds, Palmer still playing sports

— Don’t tell Kennedy Palmer she can’t do something. The Athens Bible School senior refuses to let anything keep her from playing sports.

Despite her love for athletics, Palmer has been plagued by knee and joint pain since she can remember.

“We would go to the doctor and they would say, ‘Oh, you’ll grow out of it,’” remembers Palmer. “The older I got, the worse it got.”

Palmer finally went to a doctor in Birmingham who offered a solution. The ABS eighth-grader was sent to a surgeon to have a procedure called a Tibial Tubercle Osteotomy in both knees. The surgery cut through her quad muscle and screws were inserted in her tibia.

The five-hour surgeries were supposed to prevent her kneecaps from dislocating and correct arthritic changes behind the kneecap.

“It did help with the pain,” said Palmer. “But it didn’t change that my knees still go half-way out of socket. Basically, the longer I played the worse my legs would get. It was like fighting a battle you can’t win.”

Despite the pain, Palmer continued to play soccer for ABS as a freshman and sophomore. She returned to the field less than a year after her second surgery in the summer of her freshman year, but something was different.

“It wasn’t the same. I had to teach myself how to walk again,” said Palmer. “My running form was entirely messed up because my range of motion wasn’t the same. Then the screws starting coming out of my legs and I had to get those removed.”

Palmer tried everything she could to get back in playing shape. After conditioning with the team, she would go to a trainer afterward in an attempt to build up muscle.

Following two painful seasons playing varsity soccer, Palmer decided to hang it up. But that didn’t stop her from taking up another sport.

“It was difficult not playing (soccer),” said Palmer. “But I couldn’t not do anything, so I decided to play tennis. It’s definitely a lot easier. We don’t run as much as soccer. (The pain) is nothing comparatively.”

Although it's easier on the knees, Palmer admits she will never be as good in tennis as she was in soccer.

“I was awful,” laughed Palmer about her first experiences with tennis. “I’ve definitely improved. I accepted that I will never be as good at tennis as I was at soccer.”

As the Bryant-Jordan Award winner for 1A Region 8, Palmer received a scholarship, which she will use toward her education at UNA. If she is selected as the overall Class 1A winner, Palmer could receive $3,000 more in scholarship money.

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