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North Texas teen who lost the ability to walk after rare soccer injury now playing again

Emily Ahern said she knew right away her injury was different.

CARROLLTON, Texas — Emily Ahern, a junior at Hebron High School, doesn’t take days off when it comes to soccer.

“I honestly don’t remember when I started playing,” she said. “It’s been so long.”

Last year, though, she lost her ability to play and to even walk.

“It felt like something was sharp, something was pulling really hard, and I was like, ‘This isn’t normal, this isn’t ok’,” she said. “My leg just gave out going to the bus, and I was like something is really wrong.”

After a trip to the ER, she eventually ended up in the care of Dr. Jacob Sexton, a sports medicine specialist at Children’s Health.

“I’ve been in sports medicine around two decades now or related to it,” he said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen something happen like this.”

Through a series of tests, they learned a quad injury Emily suffered had swelled, putting pressure on her nerves, like cutting a wire or squeezing a hose, creating numbness before a loss of feeling and motion.

“It’s a lot of stress. It’s a lot of panic. It’s a lot of everything can’t be ripped away from me right now,” Ahern said. “It was a lot of tears. I was mad at everyone. I was mad at the world. I was mad at the situation mostly and I didn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have soccer.”

Physical therapists used electrified needles trying to basically jumpstart her muscle. Ahern said she could see it twitching but couldn’t feel anything.

“In the back of my mind I’m always concerned, am I going to get them back to where they were?” Sexton said.

Slowly, feeling returned, then walking, and months later, running.

"I really spent that first whole month saying, 'Hey, this is going to be a slow process. You’re not going to get better in a month. You’re not going to get better in two months,'" Sexton said.

“It was more of like a snowball effect,” Ahern said. “The more I could do, the more I wanted to do -- the more I was pushing myself to do it.”

Six months after the injury, she was back playing both for Hebron High School and her club team, and now hopes to play in college.

“Looking back, I don’t know how I got through it,” she said. “It’s kind of crazy that it came from something so little.”

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