Searching for the silver lining: Athletes persevere through injuries

An+illustration+depicting+various+injuries+that+commonly+occur+within+sports+including+a+concussion%2C+a+strained+meniscus+and+an+ankle+sprain.+%E2%80%9CInjuries+are+part+of+the+game%2C%E2%80%9D+varsity+boys+basketball+coach+Alfredo+Alves+said.+%E2%80%9CEvery+injury+%5Bis%5D+different%2C+but+the+longer+youre+out%2C+the+longer+youre+away+from+playing%2C+so+just+mentally%2C+%5Bplayers+are%5D+adjusting+and+understanding+that+its+going+to+take+time.%E2%80%9D

Ananya Sriram

An illustration depicting various injuries that commonly occur within sports including a concussion, a strained meniscus and an ankle sprain. “Injuries are part of the game,” varsity boys basketball coach Alfredo Alves said. “Every injury [is] different, but the longer you’re out, the longer you’re away from playing, so just mentally, [players are] adjusting and understanding that it’s going to take time.”

By Emma Milner and Hima Thota

The past few months have brought some of the most eventful moments in sports, with audiences worldwide coming together under the universal interest for highly anticipated events such as the World Cup and National Football League (NFL) season. However, alongside the victories, a different kind of event has received an increase in attention — sports injuries. 

Damar Hamlin, a safety for the New York Buffalo Bills NFL team, collapsed and underwent cardiac arrest after making a tackle on the field on Jan. 2. United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) star and Chelsea soccer player Christian Pulisic sustained a minor injury after he scored a goal for the U.S. during their match against Iran during the World Cup. San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo broke his left foot, sidelining him for the remainder of the football season. Then, third string quarterback Brock Purdy tore his UCL in the NFC Championship game on Sunday. Even within high school athletics, many students struggle with sudden injuries that hinder their abilities to play their respective sports. And as many continue to watch these sports, people wonder about the hidden cost of playing a sport. 

Varsity boys basketball head coach Alfredo Alves notes how injuries hugely impact athletes by not only forcing them into rehabilitation for a period of time, but also bringing uncertainty to their level once they recover and return to playing. He acknowledges the mental toll that some players take when they are away from their sport.  

“Injuries are part of the game,” Alves said. “For the team, they have to adjust, but for the player, it’s a bit of a setback. Every injury [is] different, but the longer you’re out, the longer you’re away from playing, so just mentally, [players are] adjusting and understanding that it’s going to take time.”

Varsity girls water polo player Sofie Marino (10) suffered several injuries in her sport, including broken fingers and bruised bones, but her second concussion became the most severe injury that she experienced in her sport career. The concussion largely changed the way she viewed her sport as she was forced to watch from the sidelines for a year. 

“I had to take a year off for the second concussion so that definitely impacted how I played because I wasn’t able to play at all for a really long time,” Sofie said. “And then when I got back, it took me a while to get back into the swing of things.”

Not being able to play for such a long amount of time proved difficult, especially because she had been playing the sport since the age of seven. Her long attachment to water polo brought mixed emotions as she watched her teammates compete. 

“It was definitely hard to see other people play for the big tournaments and to see our team play without [me],” Sofie said. “It’s definitely hard to watch, and it also made me miss it at times, but it also made me kind of thankful to have time off to be able to focus on other things.”

An illustration of some common sports injuries. Even within high school athletics, many students struggle with sudden injuries that hinder their abilities to play their respective sports. (Emma Milner)

Varsity girls basketball player Gemma Chan (10) also suffered injuries throughout her years of playing basketball, but a strained meniscus last fall prevented her from attending a month of pre-season workouts. She explains how her injury continued on and caused difficulties for her during tryouts.

“I was allowed to play, [but] during tryouts it started hurting, so I had to sit out and go to the trainers, which was hard because everyone else was trying out,” Gemma said. “So then I got scared that my spot would be taken because I wasn’t able to try out.”

Gemma touches upon the common desire amongst athletes to want to immediately return to their sport, but at the same time explained how demotivating the journey to coming back can be.  

“I[t’s] been a little hard for me to process, because I obviously want to go back in, but you can’t because you have to get cleared and everything,” Gemma said. “It’s just this long process that you have to go through and it’s hard to find motivation to pursue that process.” 

However, amongst the negative effects of an injury, there are several positive aspects, such as the potential to improve one’s physical abilities. Upper school head athletic trainer Wes Howard notes how one should stay active by training and strengthening other uninjured parts of the body. 

“You have to be engaged and you have to do the work when you’re injured,” Howard said. “Let’s say [your] left shoulder [is] keeping [you] from being in games. Well, [you’ve] got two good legs and one good arm, so you’re going to workout every day. You have to stay in condition even though something else is bothering you.” 

Howard notes how crucial staying active is while away from one’s sport in order to ensure a smooth transition back into practices and tournaments. In his years of experience, he describes recovering from an injury as a mindset that athletes have to work to maintain.  

“You can work around the injury, so that when you do come back, it’s not like, ‘My legs are killing me, I’ve got no endurance, I can’t keep up,’” Howard said. “That’s the hard part of this level — the kids think they’re hurt so they shut down. So trying to change or bring in that mentality that there are no days off [is important].”

This story was originally published on Harker Aquila on February 3, 2023.