• Cindy

Three Tough Cookies

'Tough Cookie' is an American idiom meaning a woman who is independent and tough minded.

This blog post is about three women who demonstrated toughness while dealing with broken bones or dislocations.


Jane is a Scottish Dentist and club soccer player. She is 29 years old and captain of her soccer team.

Dentist Jane. I am concerned about Dentists who have no appreciation for pain

Earlier this year, Jane was playing in a soccer match against a rival team. It was late in the game, Jane's team was down 6 to 0, and the game was lost. Jane went to make a tackle and ended up with a dislocated kneecap. You can see what happened next in the video below.

According to Jane, the pain was excruciating. Captain Jane did not scream. Instead, the diminutive woman began hammering the side of her kneecap in an attempt to get it back in place.

"It was just a 50-50 challenge and I won the ball, but I knew straight away the kneecap had come out,” says Jane, who has been stunned by the reaction her bravery has received. “I didn’t really think, to be honest, it was just instinct. I knew it needed to be put back in because it happened to me before when I was playing for Motherwell in 2014 and that is what the paramedics had done."

“The pain is pretty bad, if anything you get some relief when it goes back in. When it’s out, it’s excruciating, you just want to get it back in place as quickly as possible. I’ve always had a high pain threshold, but this is something else. I was in agony."

“I hit it twice and it wasn’t budging. I think it was the third punch that I got it back where it should be. I gave it a few more slaps just to make sure. It was a bit tender, but it felt better."

Now here is the real tough cookie part. What is not shown on the video and what made Jane famous in Scotland is what happened next. Jane eventually managed to punch her kneecap into place, stood, and waved off a demand by her coach to come off the field. Somehow, Jane continued playing in the game to its end.

“I wanted to carry on, I knew I was needed on the field and being the captain, I need to set an example. It’s just the mentality of the women’s game, you just get up and get on with it. Coming off never crossed my mind. We had subs, but I’m the captain, I’m not letting the side down, no way."

“My team-mates asked if I was coming off. I said ‘absolutely not’. My parents and my two sisters were worried I’d played on, as you would expect, and, when I spoke to my physio a few days afterwards, he wasn’t too happy with me playing on because I could have done more damage."

Compare Jane's behavior to the behavior of a typical male soccer player. One light touch by an opposing player and a the typical male player screams in agony, falls to the ground, and rolls around like a fish out of water for 5 minutes. Play is stopped while every one is forced to watch the player being carted off of the field on a stretcher.

Jane in her soccer uniform on a dentist chair

If male soccer players would exhibit 1/100th of the courage Jane exhibited, soccer might finally become a sport of consequence in the United States.

Jane is one tough cookie!


Sally is a friend of mine and I have talked to her a couple of times about the arm she broke in 1985. She was junior in high school at the time and playing in a Field Hockey game. This is a form of Lacrosse for women in the US.

Sally with her broken arm 1985

Sally was tripped by an opposing player and landed awkwardly on her right arm. The ulna and radius were each broken in multiple places.

"My arm looked like an accordion. My forearm was bent grotesquely and you could see the broken bones pressing against the skin in multiple places. I felt sick for a minute when I saw it and then decided there was little to be gained by screaming or crying."

Sally walked calmly to the sideline and showed the mutilated arm to her coach. Her coach was visibly shaken as were Sally's teammates. A quick thinking trainer threw a towel over Sally's arm and led the poor girl to the trainer's car. Sally was loaded in the backseat and encouraged to lay down.

Sally does not follow advice well. During the 30 minute ride to the hospital, Sally calmly removed her cleats, knee socks, and shin guards. Sally put a bare foot on either side of her wrist, pressed her feet hard against the wrist, and then leaned back. Slowly the arm straightened.

Current day Sally with her two sons. She is now in her early 50's. She is a college graduate and an accountant living in Pennsylvania

"The arm hurt a lot before I straightened it. Enough to make me do what I did. But I had no idea what it would feel like when I leaned back. I don't think there are words in the English language to describe what I felt when the arm was straightening. I kept going though. Until the arm looked straight. I am a tough cookie (her words)."

Then came the real 'tough cookie' part.

"After the straightening, the arm still hurt like crazy. The bones still weren't aligned properly. I could feel bumps on both sides of my arms where bone was meeting bone but not aligned right. I found a pencil on the floor of the back seat. I used to the eraser end of the pencil to push the bone ends back in alignment. It hurt like shit but every time I fixed a spot my arm felt a little better."

The trainer, of course, was amazed to see Sally's normal looking arm when they arrived at the ER. A barefoot Sally was put to sleep after x-rays and the arm was properly set and casted.

The next day, of course, Sally wanted to participate in field hockey practice. She is one 'tough cookie'!


Siobhan may be the toughest cookie of all. The 27 year old trained for four months to run in the London Marathon last year. Four miles into the 22 mile event, Siobhan's ankle began to hurt. She thought the ankle was sprained and decided to persevere. She learned later that her leg was actually badly broken.

Siobhan during the marathon trying to hydrate

At the eight mile mark, Siobhan stopped at a medical tent. She was advised by the paramedics to stop the race. Siobhan refused. She would earn 6,000 pounds for a local charity if she finished the race. Medics wrapped the ankle for her and she forged forward.

‘They said I should stop. But I needed to get to the end. All of my family were there and I was running for charity. I didn’t want to let anyone down. The pain was really bad. I had to walk a bit but did carry on running. I ended up running with the a pacer.'

Siobhan joined a group of supportive runners. She finished the marathon in around six hours. Not bad for running 18 miles on a broken leg

And carry on Siobhan did.

‘I was in a group of people and that really helped me along. I knew I wasn’t going to get the time I wanted so I just ended up wanting to finish at all.'

‘Running was just agony. I can’t explain how much it hurt.

‘I joked with another runner that if felt as though I was running on a broken ankle. I feel like I have unfinished business with the marathon. I did say never again when I finished but I’ll never say never.’

Siobhan celebrating after the race with family. She had no idea at this point that her leg was broken

After the race, Siobhan partied with friends and family. That night, she awoke at 2:00 AM in absolute agony.

Siobhan's x-ray revealed a significant fracture of the woman's fibula

After an early morning trip to the emergency department, Siobhan discovered she had broken her leg during the marathon.

‘The orthopedic surgeon said he had no idea how I ran with it. He said it was a trauma break. He couldn’t believe it. ‘Everyone at hospital said I’m amazing for what I did. No one can believe it.’

Siobhan in her temporary splint after the initial visit to the hospital

Fortunately, Siobhan avoided surgery and spent six weeks in a walking boot after the ankle was properly aligned.

Eighteen miles running on a broken leg! Wow. Siobhan is certainly one tough cookie.

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