How are Injuries Prioritized in Student Athletes?
Every athlete has a time in their life in which they put on their gear for the last time. The lucky few that make it all the way get to retire doing what they love. Those who make it as far as college enjoy the competitiveness of the sport before ending their time playing. But others have their seasons and years of play end in a swift moment through injury.
As a result of injuries, athletes need to heal: they go to see their doctor or trainer, and then work through varying levels of recovery based off of the type of injury they obtain. The competition level they play at also affects the recovery process, in which physical trainers adapt the protocol in order to best suit the situation. Whereas collegiate and professional athletes have futures to look forward to in the sport, which prioritizes recovery, high school athletes have to balance school work, jobs, and family instead of solely focusing on sports.
At Oyster River High School, athletics are a part of nearly every students high school career. Whether it be playing for a school team, in which roughly 70% of OR students compete, or supporting the teams and watching the game, sports are a major part of the Bobcat culture. This translates however, to a sizable portion of the students seeing Oyster River Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist Mike Feld at some time or another.
In high school athletics, injuries are a constant occurrence, as multiple teams on multiple levels are playing, and then relying on Feld at any given moment. Along with major recovery projects, day-to-day injuries have to be dealt with in order to get athletes back on the field. “People say they kind of just tweak an ankle, tweak a knee, a mild sprain, something like that, but you have to be able to individualize the [recovery] program for each athlete,” Feld said. In individualizing each problem, Feld can effectively, but meticulously care for each student. Comparatively, college and professional teams have full staffs willing and able to mend their players, along with a lot more resources to best heal the athletes.
Jesse Gushee (‘20) was subbed off in the boys soccer game against Manchester West in September after feeling strain in his hamstring. “[Feld] didn’t want to risk further injury so I stayed out a few games.” Gushee stated that he would, “periodically check in with the trainer, do some dynamic stretches to see what hurt and didn’t hurt,” along with wrapping and prepping for practices and upcoming games. Feld stated that, “if we can get [the athlete] back to like 80% and they can be effective and relatively pain-free on the field, I think that’s a more realistic goal.” In a perfect scenario, every athlete should get back to 100%, however, Feld explained that with high school sports, the time to get them fully recovered might cost them the season.
The short three month high school season means that, with major injuries, the majority of regular season games and playoffs could be missed. For Matt Williams (‘19) a Captain on the Oyster River Boys Soccer team, the latter was true, and he had to miss the most important part of his junior season with a fractured hip. “Throughout the time I was injured, I would stretch, eat correctly, do anything that would lead to a faster recovery. Whatever my doctor told me just made me feel sad because I knew I was out for the rest of the season,” he described. Along with the importance of playoffs and the pride that came along with competing for the championship, the ability, or lack-thereof, to do anything stung for Williams as he cheered from the bench.
For athletes, the importance of injury recovery takes less and less priority as they balance other things. Unless the injury is major enough to inhibit productivity elsewhere, the injuries underline school and other points of importances. Williams claimed that as a high schooler having an injury, “creates a bigger commitment. It was honestly hard [being injured] because I had to go to physical therapy.” He would spend two hours a day after school going to his therapist, before going to practices for his team. “It takes a lot of time away from homework,” he stated.
Compare this to professional athletes, whose jobs are to play sports. Their way of making money is to compete, and if an injury occurs, their career can be on the line. For athletes who aren’t necessarily at that level, like those at Oyster River, the importance of recovery is there, just not as prominent in the grand scheme of things.
For injured Oyster River athletes, “It can be a challenge, weighing that balance of if we have the time to wait until they’re 100% necessarily, if we do that are we gonna miss the entire season?” Feld explained. This balance occurs especially at the high school level, and is what defines differences between student athletes and professionals. Unanimously, all athletes feel the effects of injuries; “It’s hard because all you want to do is go back out on that field and play,” said Tucker Henry (‘19) a senior on the boys soccer team. “All you can really do is sit tight and have trust and confidence in your teammates that they’re going to play to win.”
Written by Quinn Wilson