Meet Jamie Hartigan
Ever since I was little, I have been enamored with cheerleading. There was just something about how they could throw people up in the air and catch them perfectly. When I was 12 years old, I decided I was going to try it. As soon as I stepped onto the spring board floor, the spark inside me lit up. Cheer became my life. After two years, I excelled immensely. By the age of 14, I was cheering on the second highest level. It was intense. I was at a competition every other weekend, and I spent every afternoon at practice. We had to do hours of conditioning and we re-did our routine so many times, I just got used to the not being able to feel my muscles. But I loved every second of it.
In February of 2015, my team was prepping for the largest competition of the year: Nationals. We spent every second of practice perfecting the routine. Everything had to be perfect. Every tuck had to line up. Our jumps had to be in total sync. There was absolutely no room for failure. During the pyramid, my flyer fell and I caught her at an awkward angle. my arm was pushed behind my back and I heard three distinct pops. I was in indescribable pain when my coach popped my arm back into its socket. He told me to go to the doctor and get cleared before I could come back to cheer. I, being the team player I am, decided I didn’t need a doctor and I was just fine; even though I could barely move my arm. I went to practice the next day and told my coach that everything was just fine. Every time I did a back handspring, my shoulder would pop out of socket; and every time I would pop it back in before my coach noticed. The last thing I wanted was to let my team down right before nationals. One day, I did a back handspring, and of course my shoulder popped out. This time it didn’t pop back in. I went to my coach and asked him to pop it back in. He couldn’t. He called my mom and she picked me up and took me to the ER. The doctor told me exactly what I didn’t want to hear.
I needed surgery. My socket was 3x over stretched, I had multiple micro tears, and my labrum was split down the middle. There was no way around it. 4 hours of surgery and 6 pins later, I had a new shoulder. I thought that I would be back cheering in no time. Wrong. I had to spend 6 weeks on a couch doing nothing in a massive shoulder sling. I had 6 long months of PT after that. By the time I was “cleared”, my arm could not physically go behind my head. There was no chance I was going to try to tumble or stunt. To this day (3 years later), I still am nowhere near the level I was. I have not competitively cheered since before my surgery.
If I could go back and change what I did, I would have listened to my coach. I thought that surgery would get me back to cheerleading, but it ended up being what kept me from it. I believe that if I had taken a break and worked on strengthening my shoulder, I would have not have needed such an invasive form of recovery. I could still be doing what I love.