Year-round sports obligations create challenge to teens’ academics, social life and bodies

Kettering Sports Medicine helps athletes with rehab

Head+Athletic+Trainer+Robin+Lensch+tapes+freshman+Josie+O%27Brien%27s+knee+before+practice.

Head Athletic Trainer Robin Lensch tapes freshman Josie O'Brien's knee before practice.

While every athlete has different circumstances, balancing life with sports can prove to be difficult for some, if not all players.

Coaches require their players to be committed almost year-round, as workouts and conditioning begin soon after the season ends. Fairmont junior Garett Fogel says coaches encourage athletes to be there.

“The coaches definitely want you to be there all the time,“ Fogel said. “They can compromise with you going to other sports, but they really want you to be there in the off-season.”

Committing year round requires a lot of time and effort. Senior Katie Madliger, who played softball for two years and has cheered for all four of her years at Fairmont, says the time and effort put into sports, specifically cheer, is worth it to her.

“With all the bonding we do, especially throughout the year, of course it’s worth it,” Madliger said. “I love all the girls on the squad. Also with all the posters and spirit sticks we make, the fans are so appreciative.”

Madliger acknowledges that athletes must deal with a great amount of pressure as they try to balance sports and school. “That’s being a student athlete,” Madliger said. “You have to be able to get the right grades and then be able to do well at what sport you do.”

Playing one sport can be stressful for a student athlete, but many students participate in two sports.

Fogel, who plays football and wrestles, also participates in chorus and belongs to the Boy Scouts. All these commitments make school more challenging, but Fogel manages to make it work.

“I have a lot less time to do my work and getting good grades is a lot harder,” he said. “But in terms of staying eligible for me, it’s not a problem at all.”

The impact of playing two sports may not have a huge impact on Fogel in terms of academics, but it certainly affects his social life.

“Most of my friends are friends that I have from playing sports,” Fogel said. “During the wrestling season, I don’t have much time to hang out with my friends on the weekends, and when I do, I have to be careful about what I eat.”

And then there are injuries

In addition to sports’ impact on students’ time, academics and social life, there’s a risk of getting injured. No matter how hard he or she tries, the fear and risk will always be on the athlete’s mind.

“I have thought about the injuries,” Madliger said.  “For me, if I think too much about getting hurt, then I will get hurt.”

If one-sport athletes face injury, many think two-sport athletes are twice as likely to get injured. While some parents have concerns about teens playing two sports, Fairmont Head Athletic Trainer Robin Lensch feels it’s a positive thing, rather than a risk or liability.

“I actually prefer when an athlete doesn’t focus on just one sport in high school. I’d rather them play multiple sports,” Lensch said. “It’s my opinion that an athlete who plays different sports is able to develop stronger general athletic movement patterns than an athlete who specifies. The athlete who only plays one sport typically will have weaknesses in the planes of movement that they don’t naturally use in their sport.”

Lensch noted that all sports have movement patterns that repeat. “This repetition often creates overuse injuries,” she said. “If they participate in other activities throughout the athletic seasons, overuse injuries could potentially be lessened.”

Over the past several years, the dangers of head injuries, specifically concussions, have been a topic of discussion among players, parents, coaches and trainers. While most people are aware of the dangers of a sport such as football, concussions can happen in any sport.

With the issue of repeated concussions and other head-related injuries, at some point, there is a time, unfortunately, to call it quits.

“At some point, as health care professionals, we counsel kids on when they should stop playing contact and collision sports,” Lensch said.

Of course, there’s also the issue of orthopedic injuries, such as knee injuries.

“Orthopedic injuries can change an athlete’s idea on what they want to keep playing,” Lensch said. “Wrestling and football, for example, are so competitive in nature, that at some point, an athlete’s body says that they can’t keep going.”

When an athlete suffers a substantial injury of any kind, Fairmont’s Sports Medicine staff offers a wide a variety of treatments and services to the student, including access to several different specialists and even surgeons.

According to Lensch, rehab is what Kettering Sports Medicine specializes in.

“Just about every athletic injury will be given the opportunity to do rehab,” Lensch said. “That’s where we feel we really make a difference. We also teach them rehab exercises and ways to at least feel better, stretch muscles that might be tight, and strengthen muscles that might be weak because of the condition.”

The Kettering Sports Medicine staff also helps with less severe injuries, such as sprained ankles.

“Robin helped me schedule an appointment at Kettering Sports Medical Center, then gave me exercises to do before practices for the rest of the season to get my ankle back in shape,” Fogel said. “She also taped it for me every day.”

Madliger also received a great deal of assistance from the athletic trainers.

“After every game and practice for softball, I would have to wrap my shoulder and elbow, and all the athletic trainers really helped me out with knowing what’s wrong and helping me fix them.”