Zach Recktenwald: Coming back strong

Payton Carns

As Manual’s football season approached, the varsity football team was gearing up for the 2018 season with a positive mindset during their pre-season practices.

Junior Zach Recktenwald was coming back as the team’s first-string quarterback and along with the rest of the team, he was expected to have a strong, healthy year.

Zach Recktenwald plays defense during his sophomore year against long-time rival, Male High School. Photo by Destiny Graham (11, J&C).

However, towards the middle of pre-season, Zach began to feel a slight pain in his lower back.

“It was an aggravating pain, like a pulled muscle that wouldn’t get better,” he said.

After a doctor’s visit and and an MRI, the scans confirmed Zach had a condition called bone marrow edema, the swelling of the bone marrow in the vertebrae. He had four fractures in three vertebrae and the orthopedic doctor was concerned that Zach may never play sports again.

“They can’t pinpoint one instance that caused the breaks, but feel it was an injury caused by repetitive motions along with impacts from football and basketball,” he said.

Zach is also a varsity point guard on Manual’s basketball team and was likely looking at a starting position this year, but with the initial diagnosis, it was unclear whether he would step foot on the court or the field again.

Because of the extent of the injuries, Zach was forced to sit out for the football season and possibly the next basketball season. He wasn’t allowed to do any kind of physical activity for 10 weeks.

Due to his absence on the team and a few other scattered injuries on the team, the football team did not do as good as they hoped. They had a record of 6-5 and a tough loss to Male at 48-0. 

“Sports are probably the biggest thing in my life so not being able to do that was pretty tough. Sitting out football season hurt me because I was really looking forward to it and thought I may have a strong season,” he said.

However, while this initial diagnosis was bleak and seemed final, Zach slowly gained his strength back and with a break from physical activities, six weeks in a back brace, and work with a physical therapist using an experimental bone simulator, his future for sports became more and more possible.

Around 10 weeks after his initial visit, Zach’s doctor felt he made good progress and recovery and he could think about joining the basketball team in the winter. That left him with the decision of whether to let his back rest for football and sit out basketball, or play basketball with the risk of further damage that would possibly ruin his senior football season.

“The decision was definitely a difficult one because while I do like basketball and wanted to play, I like football and wanted to play that more so I didn’t want to risk it at first,” Zach said. “But my doctor and physical therapist thought it would be better for me to play basketball than to sit out and just wait for football, so that helped my decision a lot.”

Zach has been practicing with the basketball team since the season started and will slowly start to have playing time in games beginning in January. He will then check back with the doctor after basketball season ends to check for further injury and get images of his vertebrae to determine if he will play football again.

While Zach had a tough time coming to terms with his injury, he feels as though while sitting through football season was difficult, it will have long term benefits.

“Even though I didn’t play, I was still part of the team and went to practices and games and still supported my teammates while they gave me support,” he said. “I think sitting out this year will definitely help me for next year if I’m able to play football.”