Oregon senior center midfielder Girish Russell won’t forget his second time on the surgery table last year.
It robbed him of most of last season, but he was back on the field this year and helped the Panthers (20-2-2) win the WIAA Division 2 state championship.
Russell played in all 24 games this season and had five goals and four assists.
Last year, Russell battled pain and swelling in his legs, which eventually lead to two surgeries for compartment syndrome.
According webMD and the Mayo Clinic, compartment syndrome can be a painful condition in which pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels. The pressure can alter blood flow to muscle and nerve cells.
Russell said he first started getting pain in his legs two years ago as a sophomore, and the pain continued to grow worse.
“My leg hurt a lot last year,” he said. “My leg felt like the pressure was building and swelling up. It wasn’t a sharp pain. It just got worse every time I tried to run.”
That’s a problem for a soccer player who relies on speed and quickness as a midfielder.
Russell tried stretching, several chiropractors, physical therapy regimens and acupuncture. Yet nothing would remedy the injury.
“I got to the point where nothing was working,” he said. “Ultimately, I knew it (surgery) was coming.”
He got the diagnosis two weeks before last soccer season.
The doctor explained that thick layers of tissue, called fascia, separate groups of muscles in the arms and legs. The role of the fascia is to keep the tissues in place, and Russell was told acute compartment syndrome could lead to muscle or nerve damage.
So before last year’s soccer season kicked off, Russell had a fasciotomy, in which a surgeon cut the build-up around his fascia and calves to relieve the muscle pressure.
Russell returned to the Oregon soccer team in mid-October last year, playing in two games and practicing for two weeks, but the pain returned.
“At first, I felt really good coming back and playing with the team,” he said. “The first game, I felt some pain and kind of ignored it. I didn’t tell my parents about it because I didn’t want them to pull me from the game. After the game against Catholic Memorial, and a few more practices it just got worse again.”
He eventually had a second fasciotomy. His rehab has involved keeping his legs elevated as much as possible, stretching, mobility exercises and deep tissue massages.
“It affects me a little bit,” he said. “It’s not nearly as bad as it used to be. It hasn’t posed a problem.”
Russell uses positive thinking as he stretches before every game.
“I think I stretch my legs a little more than other people do,” Russell said. “If I don’t think about my leg it tends to leave me alone. I just want to keep the right head space before the game.”
Coach Chris Mitchell said Russell has been an inspiration for the team.
“We always hope for the best for kids,” Mitchell said. “Girish is a great example of someone that didn’t let some adversity get in his way and has come back this year stronger than ever.”