Injured athletes risk long-term harm by returning too soon

Freshman Kyle Wassenich is getting treated by sports trainer Robin Lensch.

Freshman Kyle Wassenich is getting treated by sports trainer Robin Lensch.

High school sports are a huge part of some students’ lives. Practice after school every day, games on Saturday and even the Sunday afternoon practice are part of most sports at Fairmont.

Whether it’s basketball or bowling, soccer or wrestling, injuries occur in every sport. Most athletes have been faced with an injury or two, and those who have been there know that being injured is one of the worst feelings in the world. It’s torture to sit on the bench and watch teammates play; all an injured athlete wants is to get back on the “stage” as soon as possible.

But it’s this kind of thinking that leads some athletes to rush their recovery period. It’s difficult for teens to think about the long-term effects of pushing too hard or returning too early. Next year seems a long way away, let alone 25 years from now.

“I see a lot of athletes who try to rush their recovery,” said Dr. Sean Convery, a Sports Medicine specialist at Miami Valley Hospital. “They don’t realize that if they rush their recovery and don’t heal completely, they’ll be faced with the same injury or possibly a new one over and over again.”

Convery believes participation in sports helps most teenagers. “Sports at a young age do benefit teenagers’ development, and I have also seen that they have psychosocial benefits,” he said.

But Convery says he can’t ignore the downside of high school sports. “Sports can be damaging by overtraining,” he said. “If an athlete has poor workout habits, that could also be a huge source of physical harm.”

Robin Lynch, the Fairmont High School athletic trainer, agrees with Convery. “I believe that high school sports develop a mentality of an active lifestyle rather than a sedentary lifestyle. But athletes do run the risk of injuring themselves when they are active so much,” said Lynch.

She thinks that overall, high school sports benefit students, as long as they are not faced with a season-ending injury. “Some athletes who encounter very serious injuries never fully recover,” said Lynch. “They try too hard to come back too quickly.”

Freshman Elijah Redman is one of the many high school students who have been faced with an injury. Redman played varsity soccer this past fall, and during the second-to-last game before the state tournament, he fractured his growth plate in his knee.

“I had never felt pain like that before in my life,” said Redman. “I knew right away that it was going to be worse than any other injury I have ever had to recover from.”

Redman has a long road to recovery in front of him, and he’ll have to go through months of physical therapy. “I know that the harder I work during my recovery, the stronger I will come back,” said Redman. He believes he will be 100 percent ready for next soccer season.

Some Fairmont graduates continue to face pain from their high school sport, even years after the injury. Erin Carey, 23, played field hockey and basketball for Fairmont and had shoulder problems during the beginning of her junior year during basketball season. “I still feel pain sometimes when I am carrying something heavy or reach for something too quickly,” Carey said recently.   

Luckily for athletes, almost all injuries can be fixed and physical therapy programs can help get an athlete back in the game. The most common injury is an ankle sprain and it occurs in almost every sport, says Convery. Because of all the jumping, running and cutting athletes do, they’re more prone to rolling their ankles.

Convery has seen many ankle injuries over the years. “The best way to avoid hurting your ankles or any body parts is to strengthen it,” said Convery. “I tell athletes to do workouts that are designed to make the muscles in their bodies able to withstand all of the hard work they are putting themselves through.”

Lynch agrees with Convery, but also believes that healthy training and diets are the keys to staying in the game. “I tell athletes to eat healthy and build good workout habits,” she said. “That is the best way to make sure you are healthy and at the top of your game during your entire high school career.”