Notre Dame’s Bailey Cartwright emerges from injury ‘stronger’
Bailey Cartwright always will be known as a prolific goal scorer in WPIAL and PIAA soccer circles. Finding the net was her forte. She is one of the all-time greats.
But the former all-state star at Greensburg Central Catholic who is now a sophomore at Notre Dame is providing more assists these days off the field via social media.
Cartwright said coaches challenged players to find something they were passionate about and something they could “give back to people.”
So, Cartwright turned what she knew best — a chronic condition that interrupted her ascent to the highest level of college soccer — into a project.
She put together “Stronger Scars,” a web page dedicated to athletes who have dealt with or are dealing with injuries. Think of it as group therapy: inspiration for those with like effects and a way to bring out vulnerability for others to better cope with the healing process.
The genesis of the idea grew out of a setback Cartwright suffered last year. She was diagnosed with Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome in both legs. CECS is sometimes mistaken for shin splints, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Former Pittsburgh Pirates closer Mark Melancon had surgery for the same condition in his arm.
The ailment is a result of too much pressure on repetitively used muscles, which causes swelling, pain and even numbness.
“I had no idea what being injured involved, emotionally and physically,” she said. “I went through a lot last year. I really just want to give people who are in the shoes I was in somewhere to go to tell their story and feel very comfortable in embracing their scars.”
Surgery last August sidelined Cartwright. She spent several weeks on crutches and rode a scooter to keep pressure off her legs.
Another surgery followed in December, and Cartwright was able to start the season with the Fighting Irish — and even start a game.
She has played in three of eight games and has taken two shots. Cartwright holds PIAA and WPIAL records for career goals (230) and assists (159).
A third surgery is likely after more testing.
“I have five big scars on my shins that I hated at first,” Cartwright said on the website. “I also watch people staring at them, so I did everything I could to cover them. Now, I love my scars, and I’m not afraid to show them off.”
Cartwright said rehab became taxing, as did sitting on the sidelines. But she she stayed positive.
“I always had an awesome support system with my family, my teammates, and our staff,” she said. “The process of being injured taught me a lot of valuable lessons.”
GCC played in WPIAL single-A when Cartwright was there, but her focus for this cause is double-A: awareness and acceptance.
The idea is not to raise money or even awareness, per se, of her syndrome. And Cartwright is not getting any class credit. It’s simply a gesture from the heart, a therapeutic outreach from someone who has been there.
“Something as simple as sharing an injury story and having the support of others could make a worlds difference in their recovery and their outlook on the injury,” Cartwright said. “I want everyone who has a scar to look at it as a mark of strength and growth in their life, and I’m hoping to achieve that through this.”
Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at [email protected] or via Twitter @BillBeckner.