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Westview’s Emma Simpson made decision to keep on playing despite ACL injury

Tears have fallen with nights spent thinking and figuring out the right path.

Westview senior Emma Simpson could have thought woe is me or been struck down by the adversity.

But that isn’t the way Simpson plays. She wasn’t going to allow a torn ACL for the second straight season keep her from playing her senior year.

After much discussion with her doctor, her family and her coaches, Simpson has put off surgery on her ACL after tearing it on the third day of practice in November for the chance to play her senior year for the Westview girls basketball team.

“It means so much to get to play with my team this season,” Simpson said. “My teammates support and push me, and it means a lot. Selfishly, you want to know why you can’t play the same way I did two or three years ago, but I contribute as much as I can.”

During her junior season, Simpson tore her ACL during the Martin Lions Club Christmas Tournament. She soon after had surgery and missed the second half of the season, sitting on the bench as the Lady Chargers won the Class 2A state championship for the second straight season.

“I shot a 3-pointer on the far end (of the gymnasium), and I was coming back on defense and they were pushing the ball,” Emma Simpson said. “She threw it up, and I went up and came down and my knee went in. I knew immediately that something wasn’t right even before I got the MRI.”

So when practice opened for the 2023-24 season, Simpson was ready to shine in her senior season with the Lady Chargers.

But on Day 3 of practice, all of the rehab felt like for not as the ACL tore once again. And she didn’t even get to wear the jersey for one game.

“It is almost indescribable how excited I was to play my senior year,” Emma Simpson said. “My goals were to come back and be the best player that I could be. I came up to the gym shooting like everyday to get my strength back and movement back.

“I took a step to my left in practice and went down. The second time it was more difficult for me to grasp that this had happened again. My knee got swollen again, and we knew something wasn’t right.”

Emma comes from an athletic family with her father Jason the coach of the UT Martin football team, older brother Ty playing quarterback at the University of Alabama and younger brother Graham showing potential to be a high-level recruit before even getting to high school.

But this was Emma’s chance to take center stage, and she was ready to attack these obstacles head on.

First, were the talks with her orthopedist Dr. Nicholas Vance to see if surgery was immediately necessary.

“Dr. Vance had a lot of sympathy for me because he knew how much I loved basketball and how much I wanted to play,” Simpson said. “It was a risk-reward situation. He told me I was risking a lot, if my knee goes out, I would tear more and have more damage. Or I could stay healthy the whole season.”

Then, she had to sit down with her family. And what advice would her sports-loving father have to say? Other than the fact that he admitted he was sick to his stomach when it happened.

“I don’t think I have had any players in my 28 years that have torn the same knee twice,” Jason Simpson said. “I didn’t have many great words of wisdom. We have had a lot of different conversations with how every game is a roller-coaster ride. She knows what she wants to get done, but her body won’t let her do it. She is learning to enjoy it, contribute in any way her knee allows her and the frustrations that come with that.”

Simpson also had to talk with Westview girls basketball coach Brian Haskins about what risks she and the program wanted to take.

“We sat down with her parents and talked about it for an hour with what the doctors were saying, what the trainers were saying and what former players with this said,” Haskins said. “We were all on the same page that we wanted it to be her decision, but we wanted it to be an educated decision. Dr. Vance told her that there were risks that came with it, so do the rewards outweigh the risks? She works so hard. One of the hardest working kids that we have.”

But Simpson had her mind set on being on the court, and that is exactly what happened.

Simpson has played throughout the first half of the season for Westview. How much time she gets depends on how strong her leg feels.

“Early in the year, we found a rhythm with playing her for a couple of minutes and then resting her,” Haskins said. “She would stretch before she went in. It has not given out on her the past couple of games. It gave out on her once in Myrtle Beach. I am more nervous than she is. She has earned the right to make that decision.”

And her teammates have been nothing but supportive along the way. So when Simpson hits a 3-pointer or comes up with a steal, there are definitely loud cheers from all over the gymnasium.

Simpson said there are nerves for her every time that she takes the court because she doesn’t want to injure it more.

“Every time I go in, I am nervous,” Emma Simpson said. “My legs are shaking, but in some games I can run and jump and it never gives out. Some games it does give out. I am learning how to play through it.”

There are also the phone calls from her older brother Ty to support her also.

“Ty calls me before the game and after the game to ask if I scored,” Emma Simpson said. “He asks a bunch of questions, and my family tells me how proud they are of me.”

The second half of the season has begun, and Simpson continues to be on the court. And she is hoping this will last all the way to the Class 2A championship game once again. 

“(Coach Haskin)’s family and my family are close, and we are around each other a lot,” Jason Simpson said. “He is a coach and doesn’t want to see her hurt it any more. He has let it be her decision. This is the last sport that she is going to get to play. Her brothers have got to do some cool things, and she has wanted to have her moment and memories. She is a mentally tough young lady. We kid the boys all the time that they wish they had her work ethic.”

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