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“I had to be punched in every game because I couldn’t take ten steps without pain”

Sant Joan DespíNo footballer wants to face the moment of hanging up his boots. The dream is over, the excitement that has been moving you for years is diluted and the fears begin. There are athletes, however, who unfortunately move forward and feel these doubts when they are still active. Paula Nicart (Cornellà de Llobregat, 1994) has suffered a lot until, out of obligation, she has had to leave the pitch. Kind of taking painkillers day in and day out to endure knee pain, has put an end to his sporting life. He has played this last season in Sevilla, although where he has spent the most time is in Catalonia, specifically in the Levante Les Planes, Sant Gabriel and Espanyol. Now, he changes the ball for the white robe, as he is in the middle of his medical career.

Have you taken on anything that has happened in the last year?

– I’m pretty calm now. I spent a few more rather anxious and stressed months not knowing what to do. When you start wondering if quitting football is best for your health is a very hard time. A lot of things go through your mind, but your heart really tells you it’s not the time to give up. Once I made the decision, I started taking small steps forward. Now I have moments of sadness and nostalgia, but I am calm with the decision and with myself.

How much did it cost you to make the decision?

– Months. I was injured in December, in the heat of a match. By this time I already knew he had done something to me, it was my star knee, the one that always broke me, and I was aware that the same thing was probably happening to me again as every other time. When we returned from Christmas, knowing the injury and seeing that I had a lot of discomfort, we decided to go through surgery. I like to see the operations awake for the surgeon to show me. That time it was all bad and he told me I had to start thinking about things. I thought, “I’m naked in my panties and you’re operating on me, I’d love to talk about it another time!” [riu].

Did you click here?

– After the operation, the first night, I began to think that it was time to leave. I knew I wasn’t in a position to make any decisions, with emotions on my face, but I started thinking about it. It was a process from January to early April. These months have become eternal for me. Suddenly you have a bad day and it hurts and you think, “I don’t want pain, I don’t want any more painkillers, I don’t want anything else.” But then you see the Sevilla derby played at the Sánchez-Pizjuán and you say, “How should I leave it?” Or you come to the locker room and you see your folded clothes, your fruit, your smoothies … You see how professional football has been and you say, “I can’t leave it now.” The reality, however, was what it was and it was time to leave. I couldn’t physically. The pains do not allow me to continue at the level I would like.

Once you made the decision, did you hesitate or back down?

– I did not want to face this decision alone and I was accompanied by people who I consider important in my life or who thought I could bring a different point of view. I talked to them and I knew that the last bullet to make it more real was my Valencia psychologist. I called him and when I hung up I said, “Okay, I have to be brave and start externalizing what I know is up to me.” He told me that I already had the decision made, but I needed to take the plunge. And it was true. From that moment on I pulled forward and at no point did I pull back.

Has football been too cruel to you?

– Last year I had to play with painkillers. In my entire season at Espanyol I played 25 games, all with a puncture in the ass of Voltaren, Nolotil or whatever. There comes a point where you normalize this situation, but when you see it in perspective it’s not normal. Okay, high-performance athletes always have some pain, but that couldn’t be. I’ve had many moments to say, “Why does it hurt so much? What’s going on in here? What can I do to keep it from hurting me?” I took care of myself, I gained a lot of weight, I went to the gym, I strengthened my muscles when he touched … I was doing everything I had to do and I was not able to do 10 steps without hurting myself. When I arrived in Seville I was in no pain. When I don’t understand why it hurts, I suddenly stop doing it. I didn’t understand either! Until I broke my meniscus again and that’s it.

How do you educate your brain and body to play with pain?

– My daily life was already limited. I couldn’t climb the stairs like a normal person because my knee hurt. But he had normalized it. Do you live with uncertainty: “Will it hurt me today or not?” And in the end you have to do it. Otherwise, I would not have been able to play all the previous year, nor would I have been able to move to Seville to live away from my family to try to have a good year. Pain is always frustrating, no one likes to feel it, but it’s something you’re used to. If it pays off you end up doing it, but there comes a point where it may be too much.

Let’s go back to operations. Being awake comes from your vocational training, right?

– I am very curious and obviously even more so with medicine. In all my operations, at five, I was awake. I like to see them. Here in the Chiron they know me because I have come to more interventions besides mine. Last year, when I was free, I went to Dr. Cugat’s operating room. I like the operating room, even when I’m the one on the stretcher [riu]. The doctor, who already knows me, puts the screen in front of me and shows it to me.

He gives you a private class.

– Totally! He shows me the bones, the cartilage, the tendons … I’m not at all apprehensive and I really like it. It is true that I forget that it is my knee, and that they are inside my body. I look at it like it’s a movie.

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