Signed, Sealed, Sidelined

Being set back for months without playing a sport can be hard on young athletes. No matter the position, each athlete is at risk for injury at any time.

Cassidy Thomas

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Playing a sport in this day and age can come at a large cost, especially when playing high intensity sports at such a young age. High school athletes can obtain injuries as small as a jammed finger all the way to as big as being paralyzed.

Senior Emily Pedersen was set back from playing golf, basketball and soccer due to a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus adding up to a 10 month recovery period. These injuries are common in athletes, especially ones who play multiple sports. Pedersen’s injury happened in the blink of an eye. She was in the middle of a scrimmage; she jumped and her knee hyperextended.

“When it happened, I kept telling myself ‘don’t cry, don’t cry’ because I didn’t want my coaches to think I was a baby,” Pedersen said. “I thought I probably just dislocated or sprained [my knee]. I had no idea it was as bad as it was.”

Pedersen had never been injured so seriously before. She couldn’t put any weight on her leg for six weeks and she had to wait four months to learn how to run and jump again. Sitting back on the bench and watching her team was even more painful than the injury itself.

One of the hardest things for a passionate athlete to do is to not be able to do anything at all. Watching their teammates and friends from the bench can take a toll on them mentally.

“The struggle with an injury is wanting to play and help the team, but realizing you can’t and you have to watch,” junior football player Alexander Kutcher said. “I always want to be on the field helping my team get a win.”

For Kutcher, this season would normally be when he’s under the Friday night lights, but now he is forced to support his team from the sidelines instead. Kutcher’s injury was more of a build up over time from all the sports he plays: football, basketball and baseball. He has always struggled with back issues putting him in and out of sports but he recently fractured a vertebrae in his back, putting him out for most of this fall’s season.

Similarly, senior Charlie Smith was out for the beginning of the cross country season. Smith’s injury was the result of overuse this past summer after last school year’s track season in the spring. He has had small injuries before, but nothing as serious as this one. For Smith the recovery process wasn’t a walk in the park either.

“Coping with the injury has definitely been tougher mentally than physically,” Smith said. “I always catch myself thinking about where I might have been had I not gotten injured.”

Additionally to being physically hurt on the outside, being injured can take a massive toll on an athlete mentally. For Pedersen, Kutcher and Smith the recovery process was nowhere close to easy, but 100 percent worth it.

Their friends, teammates, family and coaches have supported them through it all. The athletic trainers also play a major role in their recovery; one thing they had Kutcher do to cope is stretching to get healthy again.

“When I’m fully healed I plan to take things slowly and progressively go faster,” Kutcher said. “Something that keeps me going is that I know I will get back to playing eventually and will be able to help my team.”

Kutcher is hoping to be fully recovered in a few weeks. Compared to Kutcher, Smith is healing well and has been running the past week for the first time in about a month.

“I’ve mainly just focused on all of the little things that I might not focus on as much when I’m actually healthy,” Smith said. “There are so many other beneficial things to focus on while you’re healing through the injury. My plans are to just slowly get back into shape once I’m healed.”

Many athletes would agree that the best thing to do is take it slow. Pedersen really missed playing basketball and soccer, but she knew she needed to take her time and has been healed for months now.

“It feels crazy that I’m back because it honestly flew by,” Pedersen said. “I’m so happy because I am back to being an athlete. If I could say something to someone going through an injury, it would be to keep pushing through and you’ll come back stronger than before.”