Injured U.S. men's national team midfielder Stuart Holden wrote an open letter to fans for ESPN FC on Friday about his rehabilitation process and hopes for the future.
Holden has had his career limited by numerous injuries over the years. After tearing his ACL in July 2013, he briefly returned only in March only to injure his right knee again and undergo surgery to repair ligaments in the knee. He's previously sustained a broken leg and an injury to his left knee, which later required a second surgery and held him out for 16 months.
From Holden's letter:
"The daily grind of rehab is brutal. I am constantly being tested, some days physically, some days mentally and some days both! By this point, I could wear the unenviable name tag of "professional gym rat" around my neck."
People on the outside don't see the sweat, the frustration and, sometimes, the tears. The comments I read and hear are: "You're injured, you can't help the team, and you need to get back on the field. If only it were that simple.
Not a day goes by where I'm not wishing I was out there, competing against the world's elite. It really hurts to watch my teammates run out on the field, score goals and celebrate in ecstasy. It cuts like a knife to know exactly what it would feel like to be in that moment and not be able to be a part of it."
Holden also explained his decision to rehab away from his team, Bolton Wanderers, comparing rehabbing around a team environment to "being with your best friends at Disneyland but not being allowed to go on any of the rides."
He said despite everything, he remains a positive outlook and is not retiring from the sport.
"I believe everything happens for a reason and, while I'm yet to figure out what it is, I know I'll get an answer one day," he wrote.
Holden has 25 caps for the U.S. men's national team.
- Molly Geary