Athlete bounces back from torn ACL with help from Sanford

Jocelyn Julson completed rehab at Sanford, heads to UND to play volleyball this fall

Athlete bounces back from torn ACL with help from Sanford

Jocelyn Julson has been working out at Sanford Sports Performance in Bismarck, North Dakota, for a couple of years now. And if it weren’t for the tiny scars on her right knee, you wouldn’t be able to tell that the reason this star basketball and volleyball athlete started coming here in the first place was for rehab after a torn ACL.

“Going into the summer of my sophomore year, we were at an NDSU team basketball camp,” Julson said. “And I went for a rebound and jumped up, came down and got the ball, and then I fell to the floor just instantly.”

Julson would be out the rest of her sophomore year, including the entire volleyball season. But her work was just beginning.

Return to Performance at Sanford

“She had quite a bit of atrophy,” said Brandon Dirk, senior physical therapist at Sanford Sports Performance Bismarck. “So she had a long road ahead when she came in day one. So right off the bat, we worked a lot on mobility that we want to get to 100% compared to the other side.”

“With Jocelyn, she is 110% all the time,” said Candy Vanderwal, Sanford Sports Performance’s Return to Performance specialist. “She would come in ready to go. … She’d come early and do some of her own exercises beforehand and we’d hit it hard right away.”

Julson worked her way through the Sanford Sports Performance Return to Performance program, which helps athletes get back to their sports after an injury.

For her torn ACL, Julson was looking at nine months of rehab before she could get back on the court. The first four to five months would be spent building up strength and mobility, followed by more intense training to get back to her sport.

Different aspects of rehab

As she ramped up, it was incredibly important that she not reinjure her knee in the process.

“We do a workload progression program,” said Dirk.

“Usually in rehab you get really sore when you’re doing too much too fast,” said Vanderwal. “But we build them back up and that little bit of soreness, that’s okay. We’ve got to train that part and get them used to that again.”

Julson was able to return to sports during her junior year at Century High School in Bismarck, but she continued to train at Sanford Sports Performance. And to her, getting better physically was just half of the equation.

“I was lucky enough to work with Brandon Dirk. He was huge on worrying about how I was doing emotionally. You know, I feel like sometimes that is neglected and they’re just working on how you’re progressing physically,” Julson said. “Brandon was there for me mentally too.”

Dream season, bright future

During her junior year, Julson’s team lost the state championship game in volleyball, and the end of her junior basketball season was wiped out by COVID-19. So Julson entered her senior season hoping for success.

What she got was an undefeated volleyball season capped by a state championship, followed by — incredibly — an undefeated basketball season as well, capped by another state title.

“You never want to wish an injury upon somebody, you know, but I honestly am thankful for what I have gone through because I feel like I’m the person I am today because of it,” Julson said.

This fall, Julson is headed to Grand Forks. Almost three years after suffering a torn ACL, she is now set to become a Division I volleyball player at the University of North Dakota.

“I didn’t think I was going to be a D-I athlete. I didn’t even expect to be playing in college because, you know, after going through an injury like that, you just think your whole world is gone. And to come back even better than before is really huge,” Julson said. “I feel like people here at Sanford go above and beyond what they’re asked. It makes the experience a hundred times better. They keep pushing you and they keep motivating you both physically and mentally, and when it all comes together at the end of the day, it’s like, ‘Wow! Yeah, I just did that.’”

With dedication and determination, Julson trained hard to overcome her injury and become a champion. Now she’s off to achieve even more.

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Posted In Allied Health, Bismarck, Orthopedics, Rehabilitation & Therapy, Sanford Sports, Sports Medicine