Oguchi “Gooch” Onyewu, 28, assumed his spot along the US back line for the World Cup warm up against the Czech Republic in his long awaited return to competitive play, having been sidelined for seven months by major surgery on his left knee.
The 6’5” 210 pound defender tore the patellar tendon in his left knee playing for the United States during the World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in October 2009. Landing badly after jumping for a header, Onyewu immediately called for assistance and was taken off the field on a stretcher. He asked the athletic trainer treating him was how long he'd be out. The trainer didn't know for sure, but Onyewu vowed to make it back as quickly as possible and be a stronger player than ever before.
Three months post surgery, Onyewu could move his leg only "about 30 degrees," an indicator of how far he had to go. His rehab focused on agility work using ladder drills and endurance work on the treadmill. And each day, he continued to work on strengthening his quad muscle. To build strength without adding bulk, Onyewu relied on the TRX. The TRX was uniquely beneficial to Onyewu's rehab because "it helps with power, flexibility and balance," he says, key elements for a speedy recovery. And with the TRX, Onyewu was able to perform single leg, whole body exercises, great not just for his specific rehab needs but for the broader demands of the game of soccer.
His hard work paid off. Watching Onyewu on the field last Tuesday, you couldn't tell he was ever someone in danger of missing a World Cup.
US coach Bob Bradley had positive reviews for Onyewu's return to the field. "We've seen improvement in terms of just how he moves around, so that’s encouraging," Bradley says. "His overall reactions to the game are good, and his on-the-ball passing is solid.”
Onyewu says he's a better player now as a result of the rehab and work he's done since the injury. "Anyone who comes back from any kind of injury, serious, will tell you it's not easy at all to get through it. It's painful, day in and day out," says Onyewu. "I've worked on a lot of elements of my game that weren't up to par beforehand. You'll see it soon enough."
Be sure to check out the June issue of Men's Health for more Onyewu coverage.
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