But as the pain grew worse, reality set in that she needed to see a doctor.
“At first, they couldn’t find anything on the X-ray,” she said. “So I had an MRI and bone scan and CAT scans.
“They found a hairline fracture in one of my vertebrae and that I had done damage to my growth plates.”
Even in a sport as brutal and injury-filled as gymnastics — Livingston had already suffered a pair of broken ankles and a fractured knee — this was earth-shattering news.
“She was 14 when it happened,” said her mother, Grace Livingston, in 2012. “You think you are going to walk perfectly your whole life and she’s never going to have a broken back. That’s never going to happen, and then it does.”
Livingston faced a long, difficult recovery. She was forced to wear a back brace and severely limit her physical activity. At the time, it also meant that she might never compete in gymnastics again.
“That is a really devastating injury,” Vadala said. “It’s a career-ending injury for most. You just don’t see gymnasts come back from a broken back. But she worked so hard to regain her abilities and compete again.”
After so much pain and injury, Livingston considered leaving gymnastics for good. But as she rehabbed, she stayed around the Andover High team, and that began to reignite her fire for the sport.
“I definitely didn’t think I would be able to come back,” she said. “Gymnastics is a scary sport, and I thought if I did come back, I would never be as strong as I was.
“Being around the high school team meant a lot to me. They supported me, and I wanted to come back and get better for them, too. They made me fall in love with the sport again.”