Taking a Tumble: MHS Cheerleader Recovers from Major Back Injury

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  • Kaber underwent a 6 hour surgery to fuse her spine and fix her broken vertebrae.

    Media by Jeremy Kaber

  • Kaber absolutely adored gymnastics until her spine was broken and she was unable to continue.

    Media by Jeremy Kaber

  • Abby Kaber, junior, poses with Melody Hollenbeck, senior, in their MHS cheer uniforms. Kaber is a part of the MHS varsity cheer team.

    Media by Jeremy Kaber

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When Abby Kaber, junior, was 11, she was at the peak of her gymnastics career. She competed floor, bar, vault and beam for Olympiad Chesterfield. She even scored a top score on her floor routine and beat out all 330 competitors in the state of Missouri.

Unfortunately, after having back pain for two consecutive seasons, Kaber found out she had broken her spine and could no longer be a gymnast.

“Hearing from the doctor that my gymnastics career was over at such a young age was like losing a part of myself,” Kaber said,  “I dreamed about going to compete for the MIZZOU Gymnastics team. But then I found out that I couldn’t.”

Kaber had to undergo a six-hour spinal fusion surgery that would remove the disc between her L4 and L5 vertebrae; thus, ending her beloved gymnastics career.

“It was a really big procedure where I had to go under for a couple of hours and then I woke up and I had to stay in one single position for 24 hours,” Kaber said. “The next day they had me up and walking around for physical therapy to get me back into [moving again].”

The process of recovery was quite strenuous for Kaber and it took a lot of strength for her to combat the challenges of it.

“I had to basically re-learn how to do everything from walking to picking something off the floor because I couldn’t bend over anymore and couldn’t take large steps without feeling like there was metal stuck in my spine,” Kaber said. 

Her mother, DeAnna Kaber, said the family struggled to accept Abby’s career-ending injury at 11 years old, seaking four different opinions.

“[It] was one of the most devastating things we’ve ever heard,” DeAnna said. 

DeAnna said Abby struggled with the decision to have the surgery because it was “putting the nail in the coffin of her gymnastics career.” 

“I think a lot of her accepting the situation was knowing that after the surgery she could never return to gymnastics as a gymnast,” DeAnna said. 

Since the surgery, Abby has gone from being unable to go up and down stairs or move  to being a varsity cheerleader and tumbler for MHS. 

“It was a lot of muscle memory getting back into [it],” Kaber said, “I had been doing it for so long that I got back into it quickly but it was a lot of mental blocks about ‘what if this hurts’ or ‘what if I am gonna get hurt again’.”

Abbey Gradle, varsity cheerleading coach, has seen Abby progress in the cheer program. Abby started on freshman cheer team and then made the jump to the varsity team as a sophomore.

“It’s a little bit more unusual to skip a step and to go from the first year team to the varsity team,” Gradle said. “For Abby, she is very strong and that is something that made her stand out amongst others and her peer age group. That type of strength is necessary to some of the more difficult stunts at a varsity level.”

Kaber also now coaches for her old gymnastics gym.

“I feel personally that I’ve come so far,” Kaber said. “I won’t ever have the flexibility in my spine that I once had but that’s okay if it means that I can still cheer and tumble and be able to have a new dream.”