An initial injury diagnosis became a painful, three-year journey for the senior.
By Alexis Beckett
What doctors initially told Ryleigh Dublinske was a sprained MCL turned into five surgeries and three of the most painful years of her life.
Dublinske, now a senior cheerleader at Temple who helped the Owls win a silver medal at last month’s National Championships in Orlando, took up cheerleading her freshman year at Maryland’s Richard Montgomery High School after doing gymnastics for several years. She had never experienced an injury until doing a full-out at an open practice for her all-star team in March of 2018.
“I was always a crazy athlete,” Dublinske said. “I would do anything and never thought about getting injured, especially some type of tear. I thought I was invincible.”
And this time her thoughts were no different. Dublinske went to urgent care after that practice and was told by the doctor that she had just sprained her MCL in her right leg. She wore a brace and continued to cheer with no restrictions.
After graduating high school a few months later, Dublinske was excited to come to Temple and be a part of the cheerleading team, but after completing a mandatory physical for athletes, that excitement faded.
“They told me I had to go get checked because I didn’t have an ACL,” Dublinske said. “I remember telling them that there was no possible way. I didn’t believe it.”
To Dublinske’s surprise, a hospital visit confirmed not only a torn ACL, but a torn meniscus as well. It wasn’t until December that she had the repair surgery and matters got even worse.
“One week after the surgery, I knew something was wrong,” Dublinkse said. “I could feel the bleeding internally. It was the worst pain I had ever experienced.”
Another trip to the hospital revealed more bad news: doctors found Dublinkse had a rare case of an methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection.
“They said they had never seen anything like my case,” Dublinske said. “No one ever wants to hear that from their doctor.”
Following the MRSA diagnosis, Dublinske had to have a PICC line inserted into her arm for medication, causing her to miss going to Nationals with her team.
Dublinske dealt with the physical and mental challenges of having MRSA for a while.
“My mental health was at one of the worst lows that it has ever been,” Dublinske said. “I was upset about not being able to walk, but I had to remind myself that this is only temporary for me. There are people who have to live like this every single day.”
Dublinske used that mindset to keep her spirits up, but it made it hard when she was told after five months with the PICC line that because of cartilage build up in her knee she needed to have another surgery.
After trying to keep a positive attitude for almost two years, Dublinske couldn’t hold back the tears when a doctor told her she had to have another surgery because the infection came back.
Heather, Dublinske’s mom, felt the pain with her.
“Her surgeries were heartbreaking for me and I wish I could have traded places with her,” Heather Dublinske said. “I just wanted her to have a ‘normal’ year.”
After her last surgery during her junior year Dublinske was the first time she had that sense of normalcy she had been wanting since her injury. With almost two years since she had tumbled, Dublinske had to push herself through her first mental block.
When she landed her first back handspring, her teammate Lola Miggs was cheering right next to her.
“I was just so happy for her. We all were,” Miggs said. “She went through so much and found a way to make it through all of it.”
It still took a while for Dublinske to be completely comfortable tumbling, but she wasn’t going to let anything stop her from competing in Nationals last month.
“I definitely had tears in my eyes being on the mat at Nationals,” Dublinske said, “hearing the crowd, being there with my team and finally contributing to the win.”
Dublinske gave so much during the team’s silver-winning performance that she passed out afterwards, which was a non-alarming event that hadn’t occurred to her since before her injury.
“I couldn’t be happier finally being back,” Dublinske said. “This is the best team I have ever been on. It’s bittersweet to have this be my last year, but I wouldn’t say that a fifth year is out of the question.”