Edinboro softball player returns to sport following horrific dirt bike accident

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, April 25th, 2018 at 5:55 PM

She still remembers the exact days.

She was in surgery the next day to repair her wrists, both of which had been dislocated and broken in the accident.

One day later, she was released with casts on her wrists.

And 86 days after her surgery, Jessica Little was finally able to swing a bat again.

The Edinboro softball first baseman could throw a ball again after five months of recovery.

“I threw a couple warm-up throws and that was it,” Little said. “And then I couldn’t do anything else, but it was nice.”

Halfway through her first year at Edinboro, after transferring from Glendale Community College in Glendale, California, Little had been enjoying her winter break with family back home in California when her entire future was suddenly thrown into uncertainty.

As she had since she was 4 years old, Little was riding a dirt bike on New Year’s Eve of 2016 when she took on a ravine while going too fast, losing control of the bike. Her stomach smashed against the handlebars before she flew in the opposite direction of the bike.

After an MRI and an X-ray, she was scheduled for surgery on New Year’s Day. The surgery left her with plates and screws in each wrist and limited mobility when she got her casts removed two weeks later. 

She couldn’t bend or twist her wrists. 

She couldn’t pick up a ball. 

She couldn’t grip a bat.

Little returned to school for the spring semester unable to play the sport she loved. As the season picked up and the team made their annual spring trip to Florida, she still found herself unable to throw or catch.

But she kept working.

“It was uncomfortable and everything, but it was so nice just because...from the very start, my surgeon talked to me for 10 minutes, and he spent the first two minutes saying I was never going to play again and the rest of the time telling me that motorcycles are bad,” she said. “But I just kind of took that and used that as well, no, I’m going to do what I want to do, and I’m going to play and that’s that.”

First, she regained the ability to swing a bat, albeit with limited grip strength. Then, she could throw a ball. On July 24, 2017, she was officially cleared to play again. She missed what should have been her junior season, but thanks to a medical redshirt, she retained her two remaining years of NCAA eligibility. 

“It was kind of nice in a way because I got to see how Edinboro softball worked, and I got to see how everybody was with each other, and I still got to be a part of that,” Little explained. “So it was kind of like a buffer year, and like your intro, but I would’ve really liked to play.”

She said the support of her teammates and her parents helped get her through the recovery. She said her mom cried frequently thinking about the accident, and her father — who introduced her to motorcycles at a young age — felt somewhat guilty about the whole ordeal.

But Little doesn’t bother assigning blame or lingering on her misfortune. She uses last year’s struggles to show how far she’s come since. There’s still some pain, but not nearly as much as when she started, she says.

Besides, she’s finally back to playing. In her first season playing for the Fighting Scots, she has filled the void left at first base when senior Heather Tighe graduated after last season.

“[It’s] so, so great to be playing again. Every time I get to step on the field, I just think, ‘I’m so lucky to be standing here right now and doing this,’” Little said.

Edinboro is wrapping up a less-than-stellar season marred by constant schedule changes, but Little sees much more to the team than the standings. As she continues working to regain her strength and further improve her range of motion, she knows her teammates will remain by her side.

“I really love this team and I love what we’re doing, even though maybe the season isn’t going the way that we wanted it to,” she said. “We’re all very close and we’re all very supportive of each other and that’s very nice. So I know that I have people backing me up.”

The last important date Little remembers is Dec. 31, 2017. One year after her accident, she hopped back onto her dirt bike for the first time while her family was celebrating New Year’s weekend. It’s just tradition.

Don’t worry, she makes sure to avoid the ravines.

Christopher Rosato Jr. can be reached at sports.spectator@gmail.com

Tags: sports, softball

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