UBC Thunderbirds defender, Kirsten Toth during practice in February, 2016.

UBC Thunderbirds defender, Kirsten Toth during practice in February, 2016.

VANCOUVER, B.C – It can be a long grind from start to finish for any high performance athlete, you’ve got training camp, preseason, regular season, playoffs, and even the odd friendly thrown in. Staying healthy throughout the course of a long campaign doesn’t always happen for every player. UBC Thunderbirds Women’s Hockey’s defender Kirsten Toth, and Vancouver Whitecaps centre-back Christian Dean know exactly what it’s like to watch from the sidelines because of a long-term injury.

Dean broke his fifth metatarsal in his left foot on March 2nd while going up for a header during training. He missed the start of the MLS season and was ruled out for three months. While rehabbing to get back to full fitness, Dean suffered a lateral meniscus tear of his right knee during training on May 25. It’s been a difficult time for Dean, but he’s doing his best to stay positive and focused during his recovery.

“It’s something you can’t be upset with,” said Dean. “There’s nothing you can really do about it. In my article (http://www.whitecapsfc.com/post/2016/06/13/their-words-christian-dean) that I wrote a couple of months back, I said, s*it happens and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve just got to get on with it, learn from the experience, and get stronger.”

Langley native, Kirsten Toth helped the UBC Thunderbirds win silver at CIS Nationals in Calgary last spring. During her offseason she picked up baseball as a recreation sport and injured her ankle while sliding into second base. At the time of her injury, Toth didn’t quite know how serious her injury was.

“It’s a fracture on my left talus,” said Toth. “I have some ligament damage, and some soft tissue damage. In the process, I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome. It’s neurological, and definitely what causes a lot of the pain. Complex regional pain makes my ankle get inflamed. It’s always very swollen and it changes different colours, purple, red, blue, it’s pretty gross.”

The return to play date for Toth is up in the air, she could return in three weeks, or two – three months. Dealing with an injury is one thing, but learning and understanding a previously unknown condition adds another complication.

Toth recently skated and is working her way back one day at a time.

“I went on the ice for the first time, ten days ago,” revealed Toth. “It looked like I was just learning to skate again. I can’t get a lot of power out of my left foot yet. Everyday it’s getting better and better, but like I said, it’s moving slow.”

Christian Dean is making significant progress as well. He’s back to full training with the Whitecaps and has reported no ill effects. “No problems at all,” said Dean. “Everything feels good, knee, foot, ankle. It all feels really good.” Vancouver heads to San Jose on October 16 and closes out the MLS season at home on October 23 vs Portland. Coach Carl Robinson might be able to find some minutes for Dean.

“It’s nice to have Christian back because he’s a very talented young player for us,” said Carl Robinson. “It’s been very unfortunate, especially this year with a couple of injuries. It’s nice to have him back and if he can progress in the next two weeks, there’s a possibility he can be involved in the last game, because I will get to look at a number of players.”

While both defenders share a similar namesake, they also have similar advice for other athletes dealing with significant injuries. The 5-foot eleven, Toth is pushing herself and doing as many off ice workouts as she can. Being around her teammates is also helping to boost her spirits with her Thunderbirds family.

“It’s tough because I’ve never had an injury where I’ve been out for so long like this. Every athlete handles it differently and for me, I’ve had my ups and downs. It definitely affects your mental, so that’s been a little bit of a challenge for me. I would say to other athletes, it gets better, it takes time.”

Dean echoes those same thoughts, because you can only update your fantasy football team so often.

“The best thing you can do, honestly, is just stick around the team. Don’t isolate yourself, always be around. Just try to find other things outside of your sport that occupy you and keep you happy.”


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