Alyssa Vassallo

Alyssa Vassallo graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2015 with majors in Chemistry and Exercise and Sport Science. At UNC, Alyssa placed 4th at the 2013 NIRCA XC Nationals. The following year, she won the Southeast Region Championship and placed 5th at Nationals, becoming a two-time NIRCA All-American. She competed in the 2014 USATF XC Championship representing the Garden State Track Club and was voted the Best Elite Cross Country Performance of the Year. She holds cross country personal bests of 17:46 for the 5K and 21:59 for the 6K. 

Since graduation, Alyssa has joined Salming USA. She currently works at the Sneaker Factory in Florham Park and will matriculate medical school in the fall of 2016. As an athlete and future physician, Alyssa is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining balance. She loves to cook, play soccer, travel, and spend time with family. 

Upcoming Events

August 2017

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Athlete Slideshow

On the Road to Recovery

I remember the date clearly - February 14, 2015. I was in the middle of a long run when I suddenly fell to the ground from a shooting pain in my left foot. I attempted to get back up and continue running, but quickly realized that I was not able to put any pressure on my foot. I got up to walk but couldn’t put any pressure on my foot. As I was driven back to the starting point of our long run, all I could think about was that I only finished 11 miles of our 20 mile run. I thought, tomorrow I’ll have to make this up. The next day, I went to the urgent care center and got an x-ray, which negative for any fracture, but I still couldn't walk without immense pain. Scheduling an appointment with the orthopedist took days – days that seemed like months. Once I finally saw the doctor, he gave me crutches and simply said I could run whenever it felt better. The marathon I was training for was one month away. So for the first month of my injury, I ran a few times, thinking I could still race the marathon, even if I had to crawl. But the date of the marathon came and I still could barely walk. I knew I had to abandon my hopes of keeping my fitness, in terms of running. I made an appointment to get a DEXA scan to measure my bone density and the results shocked me. My bone density was two standard deviations below the norm. I knew I had to make some changes to get healthier and just do what I should have done in the first place – do nothing, let it heal. Fastforward to May – I thought I would be able to run by the time graduation rolled around but there was a pressure in my foot that persisted. I saw a different orthopedist who now told me that my stress fracture looked healed; however, the extra bone formed might be causing a neuroma (inflammation of the nerve), which is why I still felt pressure. Just what I needed, I thought. The weeks prior I started using an underwater treadmill to introduce my foot slowly to impact. Before I left to go home for a week after graduation, I made a plan with my physical therapist to start alternating between walking and running. If I felt pressure, it was okay but any pain and I was instructed to stop immediately. The two minute jog/one minute walk routine was awful. Worse than any track workout or long run. But it was necessary. After about two weeks, I was ready. Three miles straight. The first continuous run back was overwhelmed me with emotions. I felt so grateful and appreciative that I could run again and almost hated myself for taking advantage of it before. During that run, I vowed I would train smarter. I’ll strength train this time; I’ll cross-train this time; I’ll take my easy runs easy – I swear. Fast forward again – June 10th, four months post-diagnosis. My foot has slight pain but thankfully not from the stress fracture. The orthopedist said the flexor on the next toe is inflamed but that with some ice and ibuprofen it should take care of itself. Although, now when I run I feel overcautious – guess that’s not exactly a bad thing. I was able to get some speed work in for the first time and ran the Durham Parkrun 5K in 18:10. 

Two weeks later, toward the end of June, I experienced that same initial pain on a long run. Again, I couldn't put any pressure on my foot. I was so fed up with everything. I resorted back to strictly swimming and at the end of July, received an MRI. All of the doctors were wrong. The problem was in fact a rare disease called Freiberg's disease, avascular necrosis of the second metatarsal. In addition, I had three other stress fractures, probably as a result of the joint pain. This was not something that was going away quicly or easily. All of my plans went out the door and I prepared to move back home to New Jersey.

When I came back to Whippany, I was extremely fortunate to meet Dr. Todd. I started treatment in late October and, using the alter g, am able to run at 75% of my body weight. My foot is looking much better, and I am feeling healthy and positive. I am looking forward to being completely healed and coming back faster than ever!