After a tibia stress fracture wouldn't heal, a doctor told Rachel Cockrell last year to have surgery or hang up her volleyball shoes.
A team captain and outside hitter with the University of Manitoba Bisons women's volleyball team, Cockrell decided to try a different way back to the court.
"It was so scary because it wasn't healing on its own and I didn't know why," said Cockrell, who was diagnosed with the fracture in her left leg in July 2011. She lost the entire 2011-12 season trying heal it with rest. "It was so demoralizing because I had taken so much time off and still had the same pain."
In January 2012 she embarked on a treatment regimen using the EXOGEN Ultrasound Bone Healing System which, according to www.exogen.com, "sends ultrasound waves through the skin and soft tissue to reach the fracture." The unit, which straps onto the area to be treated, uses painless, ultrasound waves to "help stimulate and activate cells to speed up bone repair."
Her parents, who had insurance coverage, purchased the $3,200 EXOGEN unit and Cockrell treated the injury for three months. The system produced amazing results and saved her career. By last August, she was back on court with the Bisons.
"It was definitely a difficult year, but it made me love the sport so much more. I was passionate about the game before, but now I know you have to play every day like it's your last. Injuries can happen so fast," said Cockrell, now in her second year of eligibility. "We have a pretty young team, we can move up and grow together. To make a playoff run this season would be really special."
Bisons head coach Ken Bentley said Cockrell's return has been a key factor for the team, which also added Taylor Pischke after the Christmas break.
"Rachel has this unbridled, positive energy. She comes to practice every day and smiles, does her very best every day without any pushing and obviously has a huge effect on our team in that way. She motivates everyone to want to be at their best," Bentley said.
"She has worked so hard to exploit every bit of athletic ability that she has. She's become a great player who has weathered some significant injuries to come through to this point. It's taken her so much work and commitment to come back and play as well as she has."
Cockrell, who can attack from the right or the left side, recorded seven kills while Pischke added 11 on Sunday to help the Bisons to a 3-0 home win (25-14, 25-18, 25-14) over the Regina Cougars. Along with Saturday's 26-24, 25-19, 25-21 win, the 9-9 Bisons are tied with Calgary for sixth in Canada West. They need to stay in the top seven in the conference to earn a playoff berth.
The Bisons men's team (12-6) clinched a playoff berth on Sunday with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-18) win over the Cougars. The Manitoba men are in a three-way tie for third in Canada West with the UBC Thunderbirds and the Saskatchewan Huskies.
The two Manitoba teams, which each have four matches left, will complete their regular-season home schedule Feb. 1-2, hosting the University of Alberta. The Golden Bears men's team is ranked No. 1, while the Pandas women's team is ranked No. 3.
"We've had this new lineup since Christmas and we're just starting to see the fruits of that now," Bentley said, referring to the addition of Pischke and moving Crystal Mulder to the middle from right-side hitter. "We're at our most athletic with our lineup. I feel great about this team and I feel we have the ability to go very deep in this season."