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Recovery Journey: Nate Steiner

Updated: Mar 31

Nate Steiner is a multi-sport athlete based in Kentucky, USA. He is a former Youth Kickboxing World Champion, and Division 3 American Football player and Pole Vaulter with Centre College, Kentucky. In late 2020 he suffered a serious knee injury – now, following a successful recovery, he is dedicated to a new goal: becoming a Mixed Martial Arts Champion.

At the age of six, I started karate. I soon found out that the traditional karate forms and progressions weren’t satisfying the competitive itch that I’ve had from a young age. So I was sent to a more physically challenging gym led by my mentor, Sean Stefanic. From there, not only did I receive my black belt, but over the course of a decade I got to compete across the globe as a member of World Karate/ Kickboxing Commission (WKC) Team USA. In 2013, I was fortunate enough to accomplish my dream of being a Two Division Youth World Champion. Then— I wanted to try my hand at other sports.

I was blessed with great support to be able to adapt with football and pole vault quickly in high school, having a very successful career in both. After finishing my senior year with the school record in pole vault and as a football team captain, Centre College Kentucky offered to let me play both at a D3 level, and I was committed to spending another 4 years with those sports.

As much as I love the team nature and the competition, my love was still in fighting, so I translated that mentality to those activities as much as possible.

Early in my sophomore season during a fall football practice, I took a routine step that changed my life. I had torn my ACL, something that I never dreamed of happening as my athletic success gave me an invincibility complex.

I realised my happiness depended on my physical activity, and once I was immobilised from surgery, I had to learn to be happy with myself before I was healthy again. That was not an easy process. For weeks I didn’t have the pain threshold or strength to even walk myself to the bathroom. I was missing out on social activity while confined to a bed. I knew it might be a year before I was athletically satisfied again - so I grew from there.

Matt Williams of PT Pros and I worked intensely on my recovery, as it was my only means of working out at the time. Once I was able to be vertical, I independently started working on my boxing to get my body stronger without using my legs. As a surprise to many but not to us, I was able to return to pole vault at a conference championship level within 6 months of surgery. After I completed my 9 month PT period, I was back to football and accomplished my goal of returning to the field (even if it was just some fourth quarter garbage time).

With those goals realised and much about myself learned, I am now devoting all my energy into becoming a champion MMA fighter/ coach.

After my surgery, the darkness I felt seemed inescapable.

The key to finding my happiness was working my butt off— but most importantly— listening to those who love you, your doctors and physical therapists, and your own mind and body.

It has now been well over a year, and despite the ups and downs, my knee feels amazing. Keeping that honesty, with the will to get better every day, is what I learned through the process - and it brings me happiness to this day!

You can follow Nate’s journey as an aspiring MMA Champion on his Instagram page.

If you’d like to share your injury recovery story with the Brace Community, contact, and remember you can download the free Brace app from our home page to take control of your injury recovery in a positive and connected way!

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