Nov. 10, 2014
Jane Horvat ’18
When University of Notre Dame junior women’s swimmer Catherine Galletti went to the NCAA Championships as a freshman in 2013, she was elated. She had achieved her goal for freshman year, a goal that not many swimmers accomplish, and was excitedly looking ahead to her next three years under the Golden Dome with her sights set on returning to the collegiate sport’s brightest stage.
Everything was in line for Galletti to do just that until she found out she tore the labrum in her left hip.
The labrum, which is the cartilage that surrounds and covers the hip socket joint, functions to stabilize the hip and protect the joint surface.
Galletti started to feel a pain in her hip during her sophomore season (2013-14). She pushed through the pain for about half a year before she knew she had to get the problem checked out by a doctor.
“I was in on-and-off pain, and then at one point the pain just never went away,” says Galletti, who is now a junior. “I decided we needed to know what was going on, and that’s when we found out it was torn.
“Any time I tried moving my leg, there would be a very sharp pinching pain. Even just walking, I was in pain constantly.”
The only option Galletti had was to undergo surgery, which occurred last January (2014). She was on crutches for over a week. But when she was in rehab, she realized something was still wrong, just not with the same hip.
“During rehab, my other hip started feeling kind of wrong, so I went to my athletic trainer (Chantal Porter) and said, ‘I think I might have torn the other one somehow,'” Galletti says. “I got my right hip checked out, found out it was torn as well, and had another surgery two days later on that hip.”
After both surgeries, Galletti dove headfirst into rehab, climbing onto the stationary bike within two or three days post surgery. Every week she added different strengthening exercises such as calf raises, wall sits and the single leg press. She continued to add weight and reps so as to get back to the pool as quickly as possible.
From her first surgery, January 18, to her second surgery, April 22, and all the successive rehab, it took Galletti five months and 14 days to return to the pool.
When she did return, she had to reteach herself to trust her hips.
“I was so afraid because part of having surgery is that you have to know that you are not the same,” Galletti says. “I’m still in pain a lot of the time. It’s not the same pain, but the muscles around my hips are still weak and getting stronger so it’s a very hard learning process to know that I’m okay.”
Not only did Galletti have to deal with the physical limitations of her hips, but she also had to deal with the mental struggle that comes from having surgery.
“It was really tough,” she says. “Basically I knew the facts. I knew I tore something. I knew I had to have surgery, but I wanted to be back in the water with my teammates and racing for the school. I tried to stay positive through it all.”
Yet staying positive for a swimmer like Galletti, one who has lofty goals and aspirations, is sometimes difficult. To keep herself mentally focused, she has a routine for when she makes a mistake in the water or has a rough day of training.
“I’ll give myself 30 seconds to be really upset, but then I get over it and tell myself ‘You’re fixed. There’s nothing wrong with you anymore,'” Galletti says. “It’s all part of the process. I try to put my head down and push through it. There’s nothing else I can do.”
While there may be nothing else that Galletti can do on her own, she is able to rely on the support of her teammates and coaches to help her stay positive.
“On the team specifically, family is such a huge value,” she says. “We are there for each other, always looking out for each other. We feel like a bunch of sisters.”
These “sisters” constantly support one another in every way possible. Whether in person or through text message, this team is a reservoir of support, something that is reflected in the coaching staff as well.
“The coaches care about us not just as athletes but as people,” Galletti says. “They make sure to check on how we are doing. Sometimes I’ll come out of practice and they’ll ask ‘Cat, how’re you doing today,’ and they don’t just mean in the pool. They want to know how we are doing as people. They love us as much as we love them.”
Galletti’s support system not only includes the current team and coaches, but it also includes a former member of the program.
Kim Holden, a senior when Galletti was a freshman, experienced a similar situation when she tore the labrum in both of her shoulders during her sophomore year. As someone who completely understands what Galletti is going through, Holden has been a constant source of stability and support.
“I texted Kim all the time. Whenever I was having a bad day, I’d text Kim,” Galletti says. “She’s probably my role model in every sense of the word. I aspire to be like her in every way. She’s so smart academically, she’s a great swimmer and she had double shoulder surgery. I look up to her in every way, shape, and form I can.”
Holden, who spent much of her junior year recovering from the surgeries, came back as senior and qualified for the NCAA Championships in six events, earning a pair of honorable mention All-America scrolls.
When Galletti heard herself compared to Holden she found solace in the idea.
“It was funny because when I texted the team, Kelly Ryan was like ‘Hey! You’re just like Kim!’ and I thought ‘Okay, I can do that,'” she says. “Kim is awesome. She is very inspirational. I’m trying to be like her.”
With all the support behind her, Galletti has a positive outlook on her current season even though she has gone through so much.
“I’ve been very happy,” she says. “It’s hard because in swimming you like being able to look at past seasons and compare to the current season and how you were doing then and how you are doing now. This year I can’t do that because it’s a weird situation. So, every meet and every week I’m improving. I take that as a very good thing.”
Galletti hopes to channel this positive outlook towards her performance this coming season.
“My goal for this season individually is qualify for the NCAAs – not on a relay, but on my own,” she says. “But I just really hope I can help the school perform well at the ACC Championships and score high. Last year we were sixth at ACCs, so I hope I can help contribute to having a higher finish there.”
So far this year, Galletti’s hard work has paid off, as her times have steadily dropped at every meet. This past weekend against ACC foes Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, the Oviedo, Florida native showed her versatility by swimming the anchor freestyle leg of the winning 200 and 400 medley relay squads and placing second in the 200 free relay and 100 back.
Through everything she has been through this past year, Galletti has discovered what the most important part of the recovery process is.
“Be positive. Because the more positive you are about your recovery the faster you will recover,” she says. “It really is a mental thing. Don’t be afraid to lean on your teammates because they love you and they will support you in any way they can. I know that’s what made my recovery process so much easier then it could have been.”