Johnson makes ‘miraculous’ return after facial bone fractures |

Johnson makes ‘miraculous’ return after facial bone fractures

David Gignilliat

Belmont University softball star Angela Johnson returned to the lineup Monday just nine days after sustaining a potential career-ending facial injury during a Feb. 28 game.

Doctors at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center had mulled possible reconstructive plastic surgery late last week but decided to clear Johnson to play softball again while the injury heals on its own.

“I think her mother just about fainted and my knees got pretty weak when we heard the news,” said Jan Johnson, Angela’s father. “We think it’s a minor miracle how quickly she seems to have recovered.”

In little over a week’s time, Johnson has faced about as much turmoil as any college athlete should ever have to face.

Johnson, a 1994 South Tahoe High graduate, was struck by a softball in the face during her first at-bat on the road against the University of Mississippi on Feb. 28. Rushed to an area hospital, Johnson received temporary treatment before returning to the school’s Nashville, Tenn., campus on the team bus.

The fifth-year senior underwent a battery of tests, which revealed fractures to three bones in her face, her eye socket and possible damage to facial nerve endings. As recently as last Wednesday, it appeared likely that Johnson would have to undergo corrective surgery. Johnson’s rapid improvement appears to have nixed such an option, though.

“It’s definitely a lot to overcome for any athlete. In her mind, I think Angela felt that the sooner she got back, the better she would be,” said Jan Johnson, who said his daughter will probably get a second opinion on her recent diagnosis.

Johnson, who plays second base for the Bruins, went a combined 0 for 3 with three walks and a run scored in a doubleheader against Austin Peay on Monday. Belmont coach Charlie Gunter substituted Johnson in as a pinch hitter for Reanna Dickerson in the team’s first game against the Lady Governors. The Bruins won both games against Austin Peay, improving to 9-4 overall, playing as a Division I independent school.

“We admire her courage and her dedication to the sport. Angela is a very tough athlete and she didn’t let this setback keep her down,” Jan Johnson said. “She loves the game and that shows with how she’s gone about this whole situation.”

Johnson said Angela will likely wear protective gear for the remainder of her senior season to minimize the chance for a repeat injury. He said the helmet would be similar to the one San Francisco Giants outfielder J.T. Snow donned after a freak beaning from pitcher Randy Johnson during a 1997 MLB spring training game.

“We’re sitting here with mixed emotions. While it’s great news and we’re relieved that she’s back, medically I’m a little concerned about it,” said Johnson, a physical therapist for more than 25 years. “I think the position the doctors are taking with it is that they’ll not have lightning strike twice with Angela.”

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