The term “muscle memory” is a commonly used in sports to describe practicing a particular activity so incessantly that it becomes second nature. It can be applied to getting rid of the football when the defense is closing in on you, swinging the bat at just the right second to connect for a hit, or releasing a basketball with the perfect stroke to guarantee maximum efficiency. Muscle memory is a well known and established part of sports that everyone is familiar with.
What everyone may not realize, though, is that muscle memory can get so deeply engrained in your brain that it still works even when everything else you know has been washed away.
Case in point: Maggie Meier. In a fascinating article, Charles Curtis of The Daily took a close look at the story of Meier, a teenage girl for whom the act of shooting a basketball was so second nature that it eventually became one of her fundamental instincts.
Back in 2008, doctors discovered that Meier suffering from mycoplasma meningoencephalitis, a disorder that, according to Curtis, causes “swelling in the brain.” While doctors tried to do whatever they could to manage the problem, Meier lay in a largely comatose state for two-and-a-half months. It was to the point where, “doctors and family had to do everything for her, from turning her every two hours to moving her arms and legs for her so they wouldn’t stiffen.”
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Somehow, though, in the few and far between moments when Meier would come to, she’d perform a skill she perfected as a sharpshooter on her championship AAU basketball squad: shoot baskets. That’s right, despite being in a coma, Meier somehow had the wherewithal to “cradle the beach ball in her hands and, with perfect form, shoot it through her the arms of her sister, who had formed a makeshift hoop.”
When Meier eventually came to, she had no memories of anything she had done in the coma – including shooting her own personal version of free throws.
As a result of her situation, she had to relearn just about everything that she ever knew how to do; that same instinct that got her to hoop -- albeit in limited fashion -- while in a coma, however, also made her want to play basketball again.
Thanks to hard work and an honest, undeniable love for the game, the girl that shot buckets in the strangest of ways eventually got the opportunity to shoot them on her high school varsity squad. This year, per Curtis’ reporting, she’s a part-time starter and thriving in the role.
With all of the ugly and controversial stuff that sports tends to get defined by, it’s nice to see an honest to goodness story of perseverance and power of the human spirit. Meier loved what she did so much so that not even a brain disorder could keep her down. It would be nice if athletes who have the privilege of doing what they love for a living and somehow still manage to squander their opportunities took a lesson away from that.