In the seventh grade, Leawood resident and Pembroke Hill senior Ty Toney made an awkward turn in basketball game and tore his ACL. He recovered, dropped basketball to focus on soccer and, up until his junior year, played for years with no additional ACL issues.
Two days before the state soccer semifinals, though, Toney tore his ACL again during practice. Although he’d been through it before, the recovery challenged Toney. He said it became increasingly difficult to remain positive, with the hardest times coming right before he was able to run again.
“I was kind of a dark place, because I felt like I wasn’t making the progress I wanted to be making,” Toney said. “It felt like I might never return to the sport I loved.”
This time, there was more erosion, more cartilage damage, and more reflection. Toney said he thought back to the first time he tore his ACL, and realized two things: he longed for the sense of community his team provided him, and he was thankful for the resources and support offered by his parents, physician and physical therapist.
That’s when he decided to combine what he missed and what he appreciated into a website, aclconnect.org. Toney created the website from the ground up himself, learning tips and tricks from YouTube tutorials along the way. His site offers info on connecting with other people with ACL injuries, a list of reference materials, and step-by-step videos walking people through the ACL repair process from pre-surgery to the “return to sport” stage.
Matthew Pritchett, Toney’s high school soccer coach for the last four years, watched Toney go through recovery. Pritchett said Toney’s website has the potential to be incredibly impactful. Toney saw a need and wanted to help fill it, Prichett said.
“What he’s done is amazing, but it’s not surprising,” Pritchett said. “Just knowing the type of person Ty is, how caring he is for his teammates, that type of behavior is not surprising to me at all. It really isn’t, that’s the type of person Ty is.”
Since launching the website, Toney said the biggest challenge has been getting the word out. He said people tend to seek help directly from him first, and he is able to direct them to his site. Within these next few months before heading to college, he said he hopes to work more on letting the website stand for itself.
While the website comes with its own challenges, Toney said it’s rewarding to help people and hear their feedback. When a Pembroke Hill student tore his ACL this past year, he sought out help from Toney. Toney said the student watched and found each video helpful, and that he was able to offer the student a sense of encouragement throughout recovery.
“I know how dark of a place it can be, but I genuinely just want to help other people get through that, because I know how bad it can be,” Toney said.