She felt the pop. Not once, but twice.
It was the Hawks second game of the Cosumnes River College women’s basketball tournament. Redshirt sophomore forward Akila Britton felt it immediately.
She didn’t know it at the time but Britton had tore the labrum in her left shoulder.
“I felt it pop. They said I probably felt the dislocation because it dislocated and when it dislocated, it tore, then it relocated right back,” Britton said
She was physically limited, unable to extend her arm up, but she found a way to keep playing through the injury.
“I just knew I couldn’t lift my arm. So I had one of the trainers tape it,” Britton said.
“He was like, ‘You won’t have a lot of motion,’ I was like, ‘I don’t really have that much anyways,’” she said.
“So it was kinda like, I knew I just had my right hand really, so it was kinda doing everything with that,” she said.
Britton was back out on the court for the team’s third tournament game when injury struck again. She felt that dreaded pop sound again, this time in her leg, and she feared an Achilles injury.
“I honestly thought I had torn my Achilles tendon, because my dad has torn both of his partially and I felt it pop too,” Britton said.
“But they just said that was all my ligaments, pulled them all. I was screaming.”
As a former player, head coach Coral Sage immediately felt for Britton.
“As a player myself, I dealt with a lot of injuries. As a coach, I’m very emotionally tied to that,” Sage said.
“So when I first see my players go down like that, my first thought is ‘please don’t be hurt’, because I know how tough it is to go through something like that and recover,” she said.
It was also a crushing moment for Britton and her family, after all the work they put in to recover from a previous injury.
Britton battled through interior deterioration in her left knee as a freshman and the road to getting back on the court wasn’t easy.
She worked tirelessly with her father in the offseason to strengthen her knees so she could get back on the court.
“My dad thought I hurt my knee ,because my freshman year I did hurt my knee,” Britton said.
“But I spent that whole year rehabbing both my knees so they’d be strong enough to play. I was fine and then that happened and I was screaming.”
Her season was over. After all the effort she put in to recover from knee injuries that as a freshman, then to tear her labrum and ankle ligaments, it was a devastating blow.
As time went on, the voices of people who told her to quit grew louder.
“A lot of people started to tell me eventually that I should just give up, I should not play. I think through the rehab process that really started to take its toll on me,” she said.
Britton was able to return home to her parents in the Bay Area to train with her dad.
In between working with her dad, she talked to him about the doubt that crept in.
“What if they’re right. What if I can’t come back and play the way I’ve played before,” she said.
That’s when her father told her, “That’s up to you. That’s between you and god. If you want to come back and play, you can come back and play,” Britton said. “That was a big part of the reason why, something just clicked when he said that, I was able to come back.”
She continued to commit herself to working her way back from the injuries, becoming stronger in the process.,
Which Sage said speaks to Akila’s passion for basketball and her dedication to coming back from injuries.
“She just loves the game of basketball and she’ll do whatever she can do to keep playing. So there was no question in my mind that she would come back, because I knew she just works her butt off,” Sage said.
Not only has Britton made it back, but she beat the timetable that was set for her when the injury happened, completing her rehabilitation and coming back two months ahead of schedule.
While the injuries kept her off the court and presented a hurdle, Britton has overcome them and seen the positives from her experience. Being on the sideline helped her see the game from a new angle.
“I feel like I came back with a lot of deeper understanding of a lot that was going on,” Britton said.
“Stuff that my coach would tell me I was doing and messing up on maybe, that I wasn’t seeing until I stepped off and was able to see it from a whole different perspective,” Britton said.
Now her knees, ankle and shoulder are healthy. She is ready to get back on the court and compete.
“I think it is going to be a really good feeling being back out there. Being able to play with my teammates,” Britton said.
It’s a return her teammates are glad to have back on the team because of what she brings.
“She brings a lot of energy and hustle to the team and we really need that,” said sophomore guard Gina Ingravallo.