Rylee Foster was a cup hero for Liverpool one day and the next her world was turned upside down by a horror car accident that left the goalkeeper with a broken neck in seven places.
Last October, Foster was the penalty shootout hero for Liverpool Women, making a decisive save against Aston Villa to seal the win for her team on a euphoric night at Prenton Park.
The Canadian has not worn her gloves for the Reds since.
Just days after her heroics, Foster was involved in a car accident in Finland that saw her ejected through the windscreen and left with a broken neck, two lower back fractures, a broken cheekbone, misaligned jaw, partially torn MCL in the knee, partially torn quadricep tendon and a subdural haematoma in the back of her head.
The 23-year-old’s life changed in an instant and instead of focusing her energy on Liverpool’s promotion back to the Women’s Super League, it was all centred on recovery.
Foster had a halo fixation device, which was screwed into her skull in four places to help ensure the neck remained still, before switching it out for a neck brace – which was only recently removed.
“It’s been a long journey, over nine months now. The summer was challenging, it’s hard when you know you should be prepping for pre-season, and I’m not,” Foster told This Is Anfield.
“I’m just sitting by the pool, reading a book and floating around, getting my tan on. It’s just a bit different and I think it’s a humbling experience.
“But I’m in a good place, I’m progressing. I got the collar off two weeks ago, I’m in a good place.”
The journey has been long and you cannot imagine the mental resilience required by Foster throughout the last nine months and those still to come.
A long road back
This Is Anfield caught up with Foster during Liverpool Women’s media day, an occasion that saw the young ‘keeper back in a Liverpool kit, with her gloves and boots, for the first time since October 2021.
There has never been a guarantee that Foster could return to the pitch but a rehabilitation plan has long been in place with experts helping her every step of the way.
“It’s a bit bittersweet, it’s hard,” Foster explained.
“This is the first time I’ve been in the kit since the accident, actually since the Aston Villa game, the first time I’ve put my gloves and boots on since then.
“It kind of takes your breath away a bit, it’s nice to at least be a part of it. I didn’t know if I’d be able to be a part of this, my career could have been taken from me a lot earlier.
“I’m so fortunate to be in the position I am, to be able to partake and, hopefully, be able to use [these gloves] for the day I return.
“I’ve been taking everything step by step, not getting too ahead of myself. I like to remain humble and patient with the experience.”
While Matt Beard’s side is closing in on their WSL comeback, Foster has no timescale on a return with her extensive injuries each requiring time and patience to heal.
The priority will always be for the best quality of life, but Foster, who has a ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ tattoo on her arm, still has plenty to achieve in football.
“There’s definitely not a deadline or timescale. I have a lot of injuries to repair, obviously my neck was very, very severe,” Foster said.
“I got to do the knee, my hip, shoulder, and lower back – you might as well just add everything to the list.
“It’s going to be a long journey, but we’re progressing. I’m out of the neck brace, I’m moving my neck around, I’m walking, more pain-free than I was before which is exciting. Step by step.”
Missing that ‘adrenaline rush’
@ryleefoster_98 Still blows my mind? #recovery #rehab #physiotherapy #physio #range #neck #brokenneck #injury #rehabilitation #survivor #trauma #pain #journey #steps #mobile #exercise #progress #healing ? original sound – Kira Kosarin
Foster has been documenting her incredibly inspiring journey on Tik Tok, taking followers through the challenges and emotions of her recovery and answering all the frequently asked questions.
A therapeutic way to navigate the injuries one would imagine, but her teammates have been right behind her as Foster looks to return to what she loves most.
“I think I miss that adrenaline rush, stepping onto the pitch for training, flying in the goal, throwing my body around. I miss wanting to do that, right now I’ve been hesitant,” Foster said.
“But also the team atmosphere, I’ve been a little bit withdrawn from the team just naturally because of my circumstances, but it’s typical when you’re injured.
“The girls have been great, very supportive, keeping me included with everything, it’s just a different experience.”
For now, Foster’s work continues away from the main group but the success of Euros and the promotion-winning campaign for the Reds has the ‘keeper excited about the possibilities of the upcoming campaign.
Anfield playing host to the Merseyside derby headlines the list, and while it is far too soon for Foster to play any part, the occasion should be the first of many in seasons to come.
“I wish I could speed up my rehab to get to that point!” Foster said of September’s game at Anfield.
“That will be amazing, I know the last time we played Everton at Anfield we had over 20,000+ and I think that should only be higher now coming off the season we just had and the Euros.
“I think the girls are probably ecstatic, it’s probably the best thing we can hear.
“That’s what we need to do as a club, get us on the big stage where the fans want to be and encourage people to see that we are where we need to be, back where we belong and that we can play great football.”
Hopefully, Foster can be a key part of that in the future and help inspire the next generation in more ways than one.