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The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

The Official Student News Media of Southeastern Louisiana University

The Lion's Roar

    Athletes testing their limits: The price of victory

    Sport's Therapy

    Athletes of all sports will go into the therapy room in the Dugas Athletic Center  to be treated for any aches and pains they receive. The facility boasts of many supplies to help athletes through injuries and many athletic trainers standing by.
    The Lion’s Roar / Heather Jewel

    800 minor league baseball players were interviewed to find out when they first began their athletic careers. For most, the average age was 12, and special training did not begin until they were 17.

    In today’s culture, and in Louisiana’s culture, specialty training begins at ages six and seven in multiple sports fields. 

    According to sports psychology professor Dr. Daniel Hollander, children are getting injured more, creating an industry where there are orthopedics for children.

    “We’re not letting them sample enough sports and have time off,” said Hollander. “Kids need that time off.”

    Another con from these practices is embodied through Athletic Identity. Athletic Identity is the result of children playing competitively and developing pre-mature identity foreclosure, meaning, they stop pursuing other things because they are so busy pursuing athletics, according to Hollander.

    When athletes then face an injury, this premature identity foreclosure stops and creates a negative reaction to the situation, leaving athletes to question who they are if not a competitor, where they should go from there and how they are supposed to get back in the field before losing their starting spot or scholarship.

    “I think for every athlete it’s something that sits in the back of your head,” said senior footballer Jeff Smiley III. “You think about the consequences of the sport you play through physicalities. It’s one of those things that make good players humble themselves.”

    Out of all incoming freshmen collegiate athletes, 60 percent end up getting injured, according to Hollander. Of those athletes, 80 percent will get reinjured and  60 percent will be freshmen. By the time they are sophomores, 60 percent of all college athletes are getting injured.

    “Most athletes, when they’re hurt, are working to get back on the field within a week,” said Hollander. “Even though it is very unrealistic and the stats are not in their favor.”

    The healing process varies for athletes. It can take six to eight weeks for a broken bone to heal, but that still does not necessarily mean an athlete is ready to play at that time.

    According to athletic trainer Jehan Ayap, it is her responsibility to take into account all the different aspects of an injury, encompassing the physical and the mental.

    “We’ve done the rehab, followed it to a tee,” said Ayap. “Structurally you [the athlete] have what it takes to get back, and now it’s about whether we can make you feel confident in those movements to where when you go back and perform, you can handle it mentally.”

    Studies have found regardless of how effective people feel the treatment is, if they mentally feel ready, they are going to test themselves, no matter what the physician or athletic trainer says, according to Hollander.

    “Often times, athletes learn to block out pain, learn to push through injury and illness,” said Hollander. “That’s a very useful skill in sports but when it comes to rehabbing, that’s a very detrimental skill.”

    This skill could cause athletes to push through normal barriers they should not, and lead to repeated injuries. However, this result shows variation between experienced players versus newer ones, and in differences of personalities as well.

    Ayap states that if two student athletes had the same injury, it could take one of them four weeks to get back on the field, while it would take another six weeks. This is caused from the body’s responses to rehab, the stresses put on them and the degree of the injury itself.

    Athletes also will react to the therapy differently. Some do not want to push themselves until they are confident with their abilities and others are stubborn, at times needing a gurney to get them off the field because they want to power through and not rehab themselves. Once in rehab, athletes could still face decisions of having a quick fix in the form of a steroid, or allowing their bodies to take the time they need to heal themselves on their own.

    Athletes must take into account what their bodies are telling them: a lot of swelling in the area one day would mean they could not push it and instead must try to calm it down, according to Ayap.

    “I see how serious the pain level is without me doing anything,” said Smiley. “If it’s something I think I can handle just getting a shot with, I’ll do that so I can finish.”

    Hollander believes that when athletes engage in the process of rehab they learn a whole new skill and often it is in that skill they excel their junior and senior years if the athletes were freshmen or sophomores when injured.

    “They stick with it, learn how to listen to their body, sleep enough, eat enough, eat right and athletes that don’t, tend to not come back very well,” said Hollander.

    Another facet of the athletes’ decision on how to handle an injury is what they consider their big picture. It could encompass the following day’s practice and the next game, coupled with the worry that if they do not play, they will not be noticed, and will then lose their starting position. However, that is not always the case. According to Ayap the big picture may not always be about furthering an athlete’s career, but if they tear an ACL and decide to just put it in a brace and play, how their knee will be able to withstand all the stresses put on it down the line.

    “Is it worth it to you to not get it fixed now but later,” said Ayap. “Five, 10 years from now, you’re 20 something, getting married, want kids, what is your quality of life going to be? Will you be able to run around with your kids and pick them up without wincing? This is what your quality of life is now, whatever way we go is what it will be then.”

    There are still other athletes who, after they fix themselves and get better, leave the field and go pursue other things in life.

    “This was my identity, I have come to close that chapter, it’s time to move on,” said Ayap in reference to athletes who end their careers. 

    Ayap tries to encourage her athletes to not become overwhelmed by a recent injury, and to instead focus on what they can control: the healing process.

    “Of all the athletes who I’ve known to achieve great things,” said Hollander, “They’ve always failed miserably somewhere before.”

    For Smiley, the decision to sit out and wait was his only option with his injuries’ severity. Smiley is in recovery over a torn ACL in his left leg and meniscus. At first it was hard for him to go to practices and see his friends running full speed on the field and having fun, tempting him to try and take a shorter recovery route.

    “I thought, maybe it’s not that worth it to hurt myself because then I wouldn’t do anyone any good,” said Smiley. “I had to grow up, sit myself out.”

    According to Hollander, players could also look to try to lead in different ways when they cannot contribute on the field.

    “Can you be not just a recovering athlete, but a contributing athlete,” said Hollander. “Can you be the one who analyzes extra film, who finds themselves back in a different role for now? It can be a challenge for someone young.” 

    Smiley will still go to practice and text his teammates, letting them know he is still there. He also considers himself to be one of their biggest fans. For now he is focused on finishing school strong so he can get into graduate school, and is moving fast in his rehab, going twice a day.

    Before his injury Smiley was looked at by Green Bay, the Patriots and the Cowboys; right now, they are still waiting to see how rehab goes to decide what they are going to do, according to Smiley.

    Smiley is very hopeful about his chances and making sure he does everything the right way so his chances remain good. He wants to go into sports medicine but would never rule out playing at the next level.

    “I can try for Pro Day this year or next,” said Smiley. “I’m going to go wherever my little path takes me.”

    Sport's injuries

    The Lion’s Roar / Megan Simo

    Sport's therapy

    The Lion’s Roar / Heather Jewell

    Final play before injury

    Jeff Smiley races towards the end zone for his touchdown against Lamar University.
    The Lion’s Roar / Heather Jewell

    Athletic Training

    Athletes train year-round to stay in shape for their sport, going to training in the weight room, on the field
    or court and through watching film.
    The Lion’s Roar / Heather Jewell


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