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Rare disorder, injury can't hold back Rams' Plott

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Grayson's Hadrian Plott suffered from painful compartment syndrome in her legs until she underwent season-ending surgery between the Rams' state playoff games last year. Plott has returned to the Grayson lineup as a senior and hopes to help the team to more postseason success this year.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Grayson's Hadrian Plott suffered from painful compartment syndrome in her legs until she underwent season-ending surgery between the Rams' state playoff games last year. Plott has returned to the Grayson lineup as a senior and hopes to help the team to more postseason success this year.

The family clung to the videotape tightly, well aware that it could become a more meaningful keepsake than they wanted.

On the tape was the 2010 Grayson girls soccer game against rival Parkview, a tough penalty kicks loss that showed the best of Hadrian Plott. Though she was in great pain, she gutted out another of her steady efforts in the Rams’ defense.

It was the last full game she played that season. As she watched the tape a few weeks later, reality set in.

THE PLOTT FILE

Who: Hadrian Plott

Sport: Soccer

School: Grayson

Class: Senior

Favorite TV show: “Tosh.0”

Favorite sports team: “I never watch sports.”

Dream job: Graphic designer

Had you ever heard of compartment syndrome before you got it?: “Not at all. But now that I’ve had it, I’ve heard of other people that have had it, either from people online or trainers I’ve talked to.”

Noteworthy:

• Four-year varsity player

• Older sisters Haley (2002-05) and Hannah (2004-07) also played soccer for the Rams

• Has signed to play soccer for Georgia Southwestern

• Also played two seasons of basketball and one season of volleyball at Grayson

“We kept that tape,” said Plott, now a Grayson senior. “We were scared because we thought that might have been my last game playing soccer.”

The future was uncertain for Plott toward the end of her junior season, when severe pain sent her to the bench repeatedly. Initially diagnosed as shin splints, it was eventually diagnosed properly as compartment syndrome.

The fasciae, the connective tissues surrounding Plott’s muscles in her lower legs, were too small for her muscles and created extreme pressure in her lower legs. The teenager knew surgery was necessary — it came two days before Grayson’s playoff showdown with North Gwinnett last season — but she didn’t know what the future held beyond that.

Would she ever play again? Would the surgery work? The answer, thankfully, to both questions was positive.

Plott returned to the soccer field late last year for club soccer and even reached her goal of playing college soccer, recently committing to Georgia Southwestern.

That game tape from Parkview? It’s just another tape now for Plott, who hopes to close her senior season with more pleasant memories.

“I’m recovered from (the surgery),” Plott said. “They said I’d probably know immediately if I was going to have it again. But I’ve had no signs of it since I’ve been playing again.”

‘My legs were exploding’

Always an active athlete, Plott played volleyball, basketball and soccer her freshman season, then basketball and soccer as a sophomore.

By the time she was a junior, she began focusing solely on soccer in hopes of playing that sport on the college level. All was going well until her leg pain became too much to overcome during the high school season, gradually cutting down on her playing time.

She could originally survive 30 minutes of game action before calling for a substitute, though late last season she managed only a few minutes before heading to the bench. Sometimes she left games in tears, a rarity for someone with a typically high pain threshold.

“It was excruciating,” Plott said. “That’s the only way I can explain it. It was like exploding. It felt like my legs were exploding. The doctor explained it as 10,000 times worse than shin splints. It was throbbing, cramping, everything you can imagine, all in one feeling.”

The pain reached its pinnacle that spring night against Parkview, the game that created a brief, cherished video memory. She fought the pain more than ever, leaving for a five-minute stretch in the first half to take Advil before finishing out the game.

Grayson girls coach Terry Klinect offered to give her rest, but his strong defender kept turning him down.

“I’ve never seen anybody gut it out like she did in that Parkview game,” Klinect said. “I knew she was just in agonizing pain but she didn’t want to come out. ... She’s a tough kid. You love those kind of players who have that much heart and desire, who really want to play well and who care that much about the game. She’s special. She’s a really tough kid.”

When Plott wasn’t doing physical exercise, the leg pain subsided fairly quickly. However, rest wasn’t going to eliminate the problem that was causing ischemia, cutting off blood flow and oxygen to her legs. Whether she took weeks or months off, the compartment syndrome almost certainly would have been an issue.

So the family opted to have surgery with local surgeon Mark Cullen, who made long incisions in the fasciae to give Plott a chance to continue her playing career. The idea is to allow the fasciae to heal in a way that there is more room for Plott’s muscles to expand during exercise.

On April 29, Plott had that season-ending surgery. She watched in a wheelchair with her teammates at midfield as eventual state champion North eliminated the Rams in a long battle of PKs.

She missed a total of 12 days of school, spending most of it in bed and part of it in a wheelchair. Her lower legs covered in ice, she watched TV and occupied her time with Facebook, longing for a chance to play soccer again.

The comeback

Nearly six months and loads of physical therapy passed before Plott returned to the soccer field.

She did so with muscle loss in her legs and with considerably less stamina, but it didn’t stop her from enjoying the sport she loves the most.

Eventually her strength and endurance returned, allowing her to gear up for her all-important senior season. Grayson soccer means plenty to Plott, whose older sisters Haley and Hannah also played for the Rams. Her senior season marks the 10th straight year (the school has been open just 11 years) a Plott has played on Grayson’s varsity soccer team.

The early results were excellent as the Rams picked up wins over Region 7-AAAAA powers Mill Creek and North Gwinnett, but any hopes of a utopian senior season were dashed back on March 22 in a 1-0 loss to Parkview.

Plott caught her foot and ankle under a Panther player, torquing her leg in a painful position that put her in a boot for nearly a month.

“At first, it just hurt and I thought I was being a baby about it,” Plott said of this season’s injury. “Once I actually figured out what it was, it made me panic because it’s almost the same thing that happened to me last year, that I wouldn’t be able to play for awhile. It scared me honestly.”

More physical therapy ensued as she finally worked her way out of the boot. She is set to make her return Tuesday, when Grayson (12-5-1) opens the Class AAAAA playoffs. She has hopes for a long playoff run, maybe matching sister Hannah’s state championship season of 2007.

Even if she falls short of a state title, Plott will be happy to finish her career on the field, instead of on the bench. That Parkview game from last year wasn’t her last game after all, and she’s hopeful that many more will follow in the future.

The only remaining evidence of her trials are the vertical scars that trace the outside of her calves.

“I’ve always known that I would play in college and (the compartment syndrome) scared me,” Plott said. “It was like, ‘Wow, it may be over.’ All the money and hard work we’ve put into soccer and I might not even get to play in college. It was really frustrating. I was really upset. I’m just glad I got past it.”