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‘The game would never look the same’: student athletes coping with an injury

by Hillary Hurst

Basketball was always a dream for me. I had dreams of winning a state championship, dreams of playing D-1 basketball, and I was fortunate enough for those to come true. But, what started as my wildest dream ended in a nightmare. Entering into my sophomore season here at ORU, I tore my first ACL in September of 2017. I was absolutely devastated by the injury. Although I had teammates and coaches and athletic trainers who cared deeply for me, tearing my ACL was an extremely isolating experience. Nevertheless, I vowed to come back to my game stronger than ever and devoted myself fully to rehabilitation—both mentally and physically. 

Just as I was beginning to make a comeback, I tore my second ACL in February of 2018, exactly five months after having the first ACL repaired. 

Consequently, I found out it was torn on Valentine’s Day, which seemed fitting to me because I love the game so much. As devastating as the first tear was, this one managed to be even more so. The heartbreak was real, and I found myself stuck in confusion, anger and grief as I wrestled with the reality of more time on the sidelines. 

My entire life, I was the one in the game and to be out of the game not once, but twice, was excruciating. 

However, I continued to persevere and rehabilitation all over again, but the second time was different. I was aware of the way my mind had deteriorated over the past six months, and I was especially aware of the way my body had deteriorated. It became clear to me that the game I had always loved would never look the same way it did pre-injury. 

After carefully considering the toll on my physical and mental health, I had to make the decision to say goodbye to my game, my one true love, and that is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Life after basketball still doesn’t make much sense and the heartache will linger for quite some time, I’m sure. 

I miss the adrenaline. I miss the high fives. I miss the teamwork. I miss the bus rides. I miss the blood, sweat and tears—the price of admission to play the most beautiful game in the world, and I always will. Dear basketball, I will always love you.

A swimmer’s story

by Miqueas Barreiro 

I don’t know if everyone has a moment when they know it’s over, but I did. The exact moment is branded into my memory, replaying with familiar cadence. Shreveport, Louisiana. July of 2015. 200-meter freestyle. I knew.

Four months earlier, I had hyper-extended my shoulder swimming butterfly with a resistance band attached to the dive block. Already sore from lifting weights the day before, it took me a while to realize what had happened. Although, if we are being honest, I didn’t realize what really happened until Shreveport.

Over those four months, I had an MRI, several doctor’s opinions and tons of physical therapy. But on the last lap of the 200-free, when every lap hurt worse than before, I realized this was the end. I still did therapy, and I told my coach and team I was coming back, but I knew the truth.

I spent a lot of time angry. I had plenty of targets after all. The weight lifting workout, for leaving me vulnerable to injury. The assistant coach, for giving me the work out that started it all. The doctor, for telling me it was fine to start swimming before I was 100 percent and causing me to re-injure my shoulder. Myself, for not being able to “athlete” my way through the injury. God, for taking away the one thing I loved.

My teammates tried to understand and comfort me, but I still felt alone, especially as they began to achieve the goals we had set together. Many times I watched from the bleachers as my friends raced their hearts out, torn inside that I couldn’t be one of them.

Slowly, the team-bond that we felt disappeared.

It’s been four years since Shreveport. My shoulders still give me trouble, and I can hardly sprint the length of the AC pool. I only keep up with one or two of my old teammates.

I miss it. I really do. The rush of the water over my back. The power of my muscles as I flip-turn on the walls. The feeling of strength and majesty as I soar down the lane.

Nothing I have done since quite fills that gap in my life. But every time the ache in my shoulders matches the one in my heart, I take a moment to enjoy the memory of what I once had, and then stretch my physical and emotional muscles until the pain stops and I can keep running.

After all, being an athlete isn’t about the sport, it’s about the attitude. And no injury can take that away.


See also:

The facts, effects and futures of athlete injuries