After two major injuries in the last year and a half, Stuart Holden, American midfielder for Bolton FC, is finally back on the field. In 2010, Holden broke his leg in an international friendly match against the Netherlands, four months before the United States would play in the World Cup. In March, he suffered a vicious knee injury at the hands of Manchester United's Jonny Evans.
The road to recovery has been long and arduous, but Holden was able to use his time away from soccer to refuel both his mind and body. "You go through ups and downs during your rehab, and some days are easier than others," Holden told U.S. Soccer. "All that hard work is worth it when you step out there for the first time."
Bolton FC manager Owen Coyle was extremely impressed with Holden's performance during his return to the lineup for the first time in six months. "Considering Stuart has been out for so long after a horrendous injury, for him to play with such intensity and at the level he did tonight was great," Coyle told the Associated Press. "I've always said we are a better team with him in it, not just because of his work rate, but also the quality he brings when on the ball.''
Holden told the Associated Press that he's still on the road to recovery even though he's back on the field. "My knee is going to be stiff for a couple of days after playing games like that. But, you know, it's just par for the course now for the next couple of months as I continue to put more and more work through it and as it gets used to doing that."
According to Holden, one of the things that kept him working toward recovery was support from people he didn't even know. He told the Bolton News, "My hospital room was flooded with cards and flowers as soon as I got the injury, and the fans have kept me motivated throughout. I've tried to keep them up to date with videos and updates and I know they appreciated that."
A few weeks before his return, U.S. Soccer reported Holden received a visit from U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. "No one is in a hurry to rush me back, which is great," Holden said. "There hasn't been any pressure on me, and everyone has been really supportive. I think that has helped me get to where I am and given me the motivation to keep working hard."
Holden's road to recovery from two major injuries can serve as a blueprint for athletes in any sport. Today, recovery depends upon focus, confidence and support—not just medical miracles.
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