(If you missed Part I, click here)
When committing to play college athletics, students are fueled by the promise of intense competition, sponsored gear, extensive travel, and (if the student is a nerdy jock like me) free education. But while they may not realize it, student-athletes are signing up for a package deal that includes one other key yet poorly-advertised element: injury.
The injuries come in all shapes and sizes, striking when they are least expected. Some are chronic, some heal after a few weeks, and some prove to be season- or even career-ending. But the main thing I’ve learned after both experiencing and witnessing countless injuries every year is that each one has a story that is far more involved than what can be expressed on, say, an NFL injury ticker: “Roddy White (ankle, hamstring), probable…Richie Incognito (neck), ‘fine’…” And while our athletic trainers were not allowed to share information on injuries or how they occurred, the stories behind them were often so strange that they spread among the athletes like wildfire.
During my sophomore year, the athletic department was struck by an epidemic of one mysterious (but noncontagious) malady: the concussion. A silently sinister form of head trauma brought into the limelight by a series of high-profile NFL cases, concussions became a huge focus of the NCAA’s injury prevention programs, and student-athletes were bombarded with new videos, brochures, and paperwork intended to inform us about concussion symptoms and the dangers of ignoring them. With the increased awareness there also came an increase in reports of concussions, as cases were diagnosed that could have previously been overlooked.
The swimmers were especially hard hit, which seems to make no sense since water can’t exactly cause blunt force trauma. However the swimmers met their doom on dry land, a place where they are admittedly uncomfortable. Two were concussed while doing a workout outside on the turf field after a rain storm. While working on arm strength by tossing large, heavy medicine balls back and forth between partners, the medicine balls became wet and slipped through their hands when the athletes tried to catch them, resulting in two medicine-ball-to-face encounters. A third swimmer became concussed after tripping and falling on the pool deck.
Another individual, this time a lacrosse player, became concussed just by sitting down in his locker: the motion somehow upset the balance of his helmet, which was perched precariously on top of his locker, and it proceeded to fall down and strike him squarely in the head. Then there was the soccer goalie who was kicked in the face – with great force – by one of his own teammates. And my team wasn’t immune either. One girl had her head stepped on during a chaotic play, and another took a ball to the face – our male manager hit it at her so hard that she was knocked backwards off her feet.
As for me, I could probably write a book detailing my own frequent (and often freak) injuries, such as blowing out my knee in the first game of my career, and being whacked in the head by one of the metal poles that holds up the net after a chain snapped when I was cranking the net into place. One of the most “freaky” would have to be an open finger dislocation that occurred during a match my junior year. “Open dislocation” was the doctor’s term, not mine. In reality, my finger exploded, and everyone who witnessed the event agrees that my word choice is totally accurate. (For the full story, click here.) Clearly, each of these injuries is far too bizarre to be summarized ticker-style, and this is why I now wonder what really happened to “Roddy White (ankle, hamstring)…”
Check back next week for Part 3!