MANILA, Philippines – Suffering a second ACL injury in a span of one year was a big blow to NLEX guard Kevin Alas not just physically, but more so emotionally and mentally.
Appearing in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday morning, Alas admitted that he became emotional after being diagnosed with yet another ACL tear last February – in the same knee that he injured last year.
"After ng first ACL injury, after ng surgery ko, parang okay na ako. I didn't feel sad at all," Alas revealed.
"Come my second ACL (injury), parang it took me a while bago mawala 'yung [pagiging] emotional ko eh. Until now, to be honest, when I watch the video, when I remember it, napakalungkot for me," he admitted.
"This second ACL injury ko, parang emotional at psychological ang pinakamalaking kalaban ko dito," Alas said. "Until now, the biggest challenge for me is labanan 'yung emotional battle ko."
Alas suffered the injury in a game against Meralco in the PBA Philippine Cup, just five games into his return to the Road Warriors.
"I personally felt na parang binigyan ko ng masyadong pressure 'yung sarili ko," said Alas. "Na I want to prove myself, or to prove sa lahat ng tao na parang, kakabalik ko lang from an ACL but I can produce these numbers, I can be as good as this."
Looking back, Alas admits that he put too much pressure on himself, even against the advice of his teammates and their management.
"Hindi naman daw ako si Superman to produce those numbers," said Alas, who was just beginning to regain his form when he re-injured his knee.
This time around, Alas knows better than to push himself. He hopes to be cleared by September, and will try to play in the Governors' Cup.
However, he knows he will be on a minutes restriction once he comes back.
"Ayaw ko madaliin ang balik ko," he said. "This time, I have to be wiser, kasi my career is at stake na."
Right now, he is still feeling some pain in his right knee, although he already is much stronger than he was just a few short months ago. Alas said that he can now do landing and jumping exercises in therapy, with his physical therapists looking to fix his mechanics.
Yet the biggest hump for him is not physical, but emotional and mental.
"I think, 'yun nga, ang pinakamalaking kalaban ko now is 'yung emotional battle, and 'yung takot na rin sa isip ko," he said. "Kung ia-assess ko ang sarili ko, takot ang pinakamalaking kalaban ko."
Alas has seen a psychologist in the wake of his injury, but pushed for the inclusion of a sports psychologist in the staff of every team.
"After ng first ACL ko, I felt that I was tough, parang wala lang 'to, kayang-kaya ko 'to. Pagdating ng second ACL, umiiyak ako, akala ko tough ako, hind pala," said Alas. "So 'yun nga, I feel na parang for sports teams, importante din 'yung may psychologist eh."
"Tao lang tayo at kailangan din natin ng tulong, so I'm pushing na sana lahat ng teams, magkaroon din ng sports psychologist," he added.
As he continues to work his way back, Alas vows to be more patient with himself.
"Pagbalik ko, di ko ipe-pressure ang sarili ko, 'di ko minamadali," the NLEX guard said. "Isipin ko na lang na I'm blessed na nakakapaglaro ako. It's a matter of mindset lang. Hindi ko mamadaliin 'yung progress ko pagbalik ko from this injury."
"Ang biggest motivation for me is, gusto ko at the end of the year, I'll have a good story to tell. Naka-dalawang ACL (injuries) ako in less than a year, but I end up being successful," he also said.
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