Kuhlmann set to return from back injury
By Keith Sparks
Following a State Championship loss in 2017, the Liberty Hill softball team was poised to make another deep run after losing only two seniors to graduation. Unfortunately for the Panthers, Kinsey Kuhlmann, who had a breakout season as a sophomore last year, hasn’t played a single game due to a back injury.
Kuhlmann’s injury didn’t present itself in one moment, but became apparent over time as she transitioned from high school softball to select ball over the summer. She described her injury as a small fracture in her upper back, a degenerative disc, and a slipped bulging disc.
“There wasn’t one move or action that triggered it,” Kuhlmann said. “It just happened over time and got more painful as I kept playing, so I decided I needed to go see a doctor. After the State game, I started select ball a couple days after, so I think it happened from just going and going from high school ball straight to select ball in the summer.”
Kuhlmann’s doctor recommended an MRI, which revealed bad news. The injury required six months of therapy that did not work as intended, to the dismay of everybody involved.
“I was very upset, because I knew I was going to have to take some time off,” Kuhlmann said, “but I really believed in my doctor and counted on my wonderful therapist to get me back to playing. Figured it would’ve been a couple months of strengthening my back and I was going to be good to go, but six months of therapy did not go as well as I wanted it to, and I was very emotional because I just wanted to play ball.”
After such an impressive breakout season last year, Kuhlmann was more ready than ever to get to work this season. In fact, she said she continuously reminded her physical therapist that she had to be ready by the time season started. After six months of therapy, Kuhlmann attempted a comeback, but her back simply didn’t feel right.
“I tried to play at the beginning of the season and my back just was not quite ready,” Kuhlmann said. “I can be very stubborn, so I tried to push through it and it lasted three games, and I had to stop and go see another doctor.”
Kuhlmann admitted that she impressed herself with her performance during the three games she played. If it were up to her, she’d have been playing weeks ago, but she’s trusting her doctor to make the call that’s most beneficial for her future.
“My doctor knows what’s best for me, so I’m listening to him,” Kuhlmann said. “I’m hoping I am good to go and able to play for playoffs, but no matter what happens, I know my team will give it all they’ve got for me, whether I can or can’t play.”
Although she hasn’t been able to make an impact on the field outside of those first three games, Kuhlmann is doing all she can from the dugout. She also said she’s learning some mental aspects of the game while she’s watching.
“All I am able to do is motivate, encourage, and cheer my team on,” Kuhlmann said. “I do as much as I can to cheer each girl on, because they mean so much to me. I also try to keep the mood very happy and loud in the dugout. Not being able to play has also benefitted me at paying attention to details and learning the game even better during games and practice.”
Kuhlmann is finally set to return in the second round of the playoffs after taking her recovery slowly in order to prevent reinjury. She began with just throwing the ball, which she said hasn’t given her any pain.
When she is back on the field, expect nothing less than 100 percent.
“My expectations for when I come back are to come back like I have not missed a single game,” Kuhlmann said. “I have played this game too long to not come back with my all, like I was never injured. I plan on coming out and giving it all I got and earning my spot back. I am going to do everything I can to help win ballgames.”
For months, Kuhlmann could be found leading her teammates with chants and cheers from the dugout. Finally, she’ll be able to put that energy toward making plays on the field in the second round of the playoffs.