Taken Down—But Not Out

Maryland State Trooper Jacqueline Kline Competes After Traumatic Brain Injury

Wodapalooza Bayfront Park

Just before noon on Saturday, 28-year-old Jacqueline (Jackie) Kline stepped onstage at the Hill to compete with team Maryland Muscle, a scaled women’s team hailing from CrossFit Execution F.A.C. in Owings Mills, Maryland. The workout was Beauty and the Beast: Teams had to perform Heavy Grace immediately followed by an onslaught of ring dips, rowing, hang snatches, synchronized burpees, overhead squats, chest-to-bar pull-ups and hand release push-ups.

When it was her turn on the bar, Kline repped out easy push jerks in singles, her hair flying behind her in a tight pleat and her face set in concentration. When the women moved to the rings, she did half the work, taking the ring dips in sets of two and three—and starting them strict to boot.

After the team sprinted to the top of the hill in front of the stage and in the WOD’s final 30 seconds, Kline finished her share of the 27 60-lb. axle bar hang snatches with eight reps unbroken, leaving just enough time for the team to put one burpee in the bank.

From her seemingly endless tank and prowess on the rings, you’d never guess that just more than three years ago, Kline was simply lucky to be alive. A Maryland State Trooper of five years, in 2013, she was struck by a passing during a traffic stop, resulting in a traumatic brain injury and fractured skull, neck, back, nose and scapula.

Kline has no memory of the accident, but can recall flashes from the hospital, as though from a dream.

“I was very confused; my state of mind was like I was a child again,” she said.

She was hospitalized for a month, and it would be two more before she could attempt any physical activity: running on a treadmill.

“And that was very hard,” she said. “I couldn’t run a mile, which I can do now no problem.”

Still, even that came as a surprise to her doctors, family and friends, most of whom assumed she’d never return to work—or training—again.

“Nobody thought I was going to be able to work again,” she said. “Most people would have taken a medical retirement but I just wanted to get back to work so bad.”

Diligently she worked in her physical therapy, surmounting her injuries and regaining her mental faculties. It wasn’t easy.

“It was terrible,” she said. “I couldn’t run at first because my...brain decided not to let my (left) leg work the same. So I was limping when I was trying to run at first. It was hard because I’m so active, and I can’t sit still.”

But after just four months of recovery, Kline was back in the gym. Though she had to relearn many movements and could no longer do a pull-up, she was ecstatic to be back where she belonged.

“It made me feel so much better,” she said. “I just wanted to be able to do what everyone else was doing, so when I was starting to do that again, mentally it made me feel great and it made me want more. The more I exercised, the better I got—quickly.”

In fact, Kline’s doctors had no explanation for her rapid recovery—other than her fitness.

After five events, team Maryland Muscle stood in 29th of 36 teams. But Kline was just happy to be here.

“We’re not at the top but we’re here and we’re not in last place, so it’s great,” she said. “It’s so great to be here.”