PUREFOODS sophomore Ian Sangalang's worst fears came true on Thursday when an MRI scan confirmed that he has sustained a partial tear on the ACL (arterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus (MCL) on his right knee that could sideline him for up to five to eight months.
Sangalang was understandably devastated by the news, a day after sustaining the injury when he landed awkwardly in a rebound battle with Alaska's Sam Eman. An MRI scan done on the knee on Thursday confirmed team doctors' worst fears.
The former San Sebastian star said this is the lowest point in his young career.
“Mahirap talaga kasi yung injury ko, ever since wala akong na-feel na ganito. Parang (iniisip ko nga noong una na) nanaginip lang ako na nangyari ito. Parang gusto ko bangungot lang,” said Sangalang, a member of the All-Rookie team last season after playing a key role in San Mig's grand slam campaign.
“Pero alam ko na may dahilan kung bakit nangyari ito. Alam ko na may mas maganda at mas mabuting mangyayari. Kailangan ko lang tanggapin,” he added.
Sangalang did not hide his frustration over the possibility of missing the whole season-opening PBA Philippine Cup as well as the early part of the Commissioner’s cup due to the injury.
He is set to return to the St. Luke's Medical Center on Friday to get a second opinion from top surgeon Dr. Jose Raul Canlas before surgery is scheduled.
“Nasa point na papataas ako tapos nangyari ito, syempre hindi ko maiiwasan ang ma-frustrate,” he said. “Kaso wala tayong magagawa. Andito na eh. Kailangang tanggapin, kasi mas mahihirapan lang ako.”
He still pushed himself to attend the team’s practice on Thursday afternoon, where he was consoled by teammates Marc Pingris, Allein Maliksi and Ronnie Matias - who have all overcome ACL injuries in their careers.
“Nilapitan ako nung tatlo, at sinabihan nga ako na maging strong. Masakit raw talaga ang surgery na ito. Kaya kailangang mas maging matibay ako,” he said.
The 6-foot-5 slotman from Lubao, Pampanga claimed he cried on Wednesday night over the thought of sitting out a long stretch of the season - as well as the uncertainty he faces.
“Naiyak talaga ako kagabi, sabi ko sana panaginip lang ito. Grabe na-feel ko, tapos matagal pa ang recovery, tapos pagbalik ko yun pa … Hindi ko alam kung ano mangyayari,” Sangalang said.
“First time ko to na ma-injure, pinaka worse na injury ko, tapilok lang eh. Worst na yun, tapilok, tapos wala na," he added. “Wala na talaga akong ibang magagawa kundi mag-think positive lang. Sobrang hirap eh. Hindi ko magalaw paa ko.”
Sangalang said he has already asked his parents Paul and Jennifer, who are both based in Lubao, to join him in his condo unit in Pasig City prior to the surgery.
Matias told Spin.ph that ACL injury is truly an athlete’s nightmare.
“Grabe ang injury na yan. Napakasakit nyan. Mas masakit pa ang operasyon nyan. Hindi mo naman pwedeng hindi pa-operahan kasi kabuhayan mo ang mawawala,” said Matias, who suffered an ACL tear in his left knee while playing for Air 21 in 2010.
“Sinumpa ko talaga yun pati nga yung suot kong sapatos nun, bago pa. Pinamigay ko agad. Ayaw ko nang mangyari yun,” he said.
Matias also shared the ordeal he underwent during the surgery.
“Ang sakit nyan. Kasi bubutasin ang buto sa tuhod mo tapos lalagyan ng turnilyo. Tapos yung turnilyo tatabunan ng laman,” he said.
“Ako nga after ng operation, nanginginig daw ako. Kasi nakatulog ako nun dahil sa anesthesia, tapos paggising ko nun, talagang hirap na hirap ako sa sakit,” added the former University of Manila guard.
“Worst nightmare yan para sa player. Kasi six-to-eight months ka mawawala tapos pagbalik mo back to zero ka tapos may ilang ka pa sa umpisa pag naglalaro. Kasi takot kang maulit na yung injury eh,” he added.
Matias said he tried to lift the spirit of Sangalang.
“Pero sabi ko nga kay Ian, kailangan lang talaga maging desidido ka sa therapy at rehab. Makakabalik ka agad. Pero ang sakit ng operasyon niyan eh,” he said.
Here's a podcast of full interview with Ian Sangalang:
As for Sangalang, the challenges ahead has motivated him to become stronger.
“Siguro para sa akin, magiging strong ako at mag pray lang ako. Alam ko mas may magandang plano si God sa akin. Kailangan ko rin ipakita na strong ako para sa mga sumusuporta at nagdadasal sa akin. Alam ko kaya ko to,” he said.