Kayla Hirt's long-range plans include playing college basketball at the University of Minnesota beginning next year. In order to do that, however, she was forced to make a difficult decision this fall.
Hirt will have reconstructive surgery on her left knee Sept. 23 at Sanford Hospital in Fargo. The surgery is designed to repair the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) she tore during an AAU basketball game in Georgia during the late summer.
By having surgery now Hirt believes she will be ready to join the Gophers next fall. It also means that she will be a spectator and not a participant during her senior volleyball and basketball seasons.
"The outlook for my future determined that I have surgery now," Hirt said. "None of my coaches are making me have the surgery."
The benefits of postponing the surgery were not worth the risks, according to Hirt.
"If I had waited for the surgery I'd miss next year at the University of Minnesota," Hirt said. "I wouldn't have been able to play basketball this year anyway because the knee couldn't handle it. And for volleyball, I might have been able to get a couple of games in at the end of the year. But that probably would be all."
Earlier this month Hirt visited specialists at the University of Minnesota and at Sanford Hospital. Although the diagnosis was slightly different, the recommendation was the same.
"Both of the specialists recommended surgery," Hirt said. "At Fargo they looked at the MRI and determined I had a complete tear. At the University they did an extensive exam in addition to looking at the MRI and they think the tear might be partial.
"But they also said that for me to play basketball at the college level and beyond I would need the surgery."
A brace will protect the knee following the surgery but before long the rehabilitation process will begin.
"I'm going to start out easy and progressively work harder," Hirt said.
"Everybody's recovery process is different and depends upon a number of things," the senior said. "I don't want to rush it but I want to get it over with as soon as possible."
The initial shock of having knee surgery and seeing her high school athletic career come to a sudden end was difficult to absorb but Hirt has accepted what fate has thrown her way.
"The knee injury is an obstacle I'll have to overcome," she said. "I'm not the first person this has happened to. Many athletes have gone through this. Eventually the knee will get to the point where it was before the injury. In the long term, I don't think this will hurt me."