Injuries affect more than you: teammates, coaches, family

Sam Lukins , Contributing Writer

With over 25 IHSA-sanctioned sports at Glenbard West, the athletic trainers are kept hard at work at almost every point throughout the school year. The impact of the injuries seen falls on more than just the athletes, though.

The severity of high school injuries has increased sharply over the years as kids have begun to focus on single sports and often “over-training,” as Athletic Trainer Jennifer Bednarek described.

Any athlete who has experienced an injury themselves knows the frustration it brings throughout the whole process, from the time of injury to return to play. They also know how long the recovery process (doctors visits, physical therapy, etc.) can take and how much it will alter their day-to-day life.

For teams, injury can be a binding force. It can bring teammates closer together and give a mutual emotional determination, or it can be a big blow to the plan of attack for the team.

Jocelyn Smolik, former varsity cheer coach at McCluer North High School, said, “If there isn’t enough time to adjust then it’s definitely a very negative attitude that emerges.” A team needs time to adjust to having the new teammate in the position of the injured teammate. The adjustment period will include the time needed to build that trust that was there with the old teammate. Over time, teammates build trust in one another which allows them to think on the same page as each other. It will take time to rebuild this if a teammate is injured. The coaches also need time to make the new plan of attack with replacing the injured athlete. This means coming up with new plans, plays, or routines incorporating the new replacement athlete.

Senior Elliot Hamilton, a multi-sport athlete, has experienced many injuries through his high school experience. When asked about the frustration that comes along with injuries Hamilton said, “The frustration of injuries, especially in such a large amount like I’ve experienced, really wears on you.” He continued to say how it is not just the fact that you cannot compete that is frustrating, but that it is keeping you from doing everyday things, too.

For senior Jack Dore, three concussions put him out of his favorite sport, football, forever. On the topic of frustration, Dore said, “Frustration impacts me every day. Sadness and anger overwhelm me after every game. I wish I could contribute.” With the extent of his injury the change it caused is long lasting and irreversible. Not all people can relate to such an event as he went through, but we all know that support is crucial through times like this.

Support plays a big role and athletes tend to fall back on their family but don’t always realize the affect their injury can have on others. It changes the way families operate. Real Estate agent Margi Hamilton, and mother of two multi-sport Glenbard West athletes, Elliot and Trevor, said, “All your energy, priorities, and time naturally gets shifted to the one that needs you. You worry less about work and dedicate less attention to it so you can focus your time and energy to make sure your child is okay.”

The athlete’s devastation can sometimes carry into family feelings as well. In the case of Jack Dore, he said, “My family sees that it impacts me and it makes them sad, too.”

For the athlete, emotional frustration is not the only thing to hinder them during injury. The time for doctors visits or recovery is another huge aspect to consider when looking at the impact of injuries.

With doctors visits and physical therapy appointments taking an hour or more every time, it changes the schedule of all involved. For Elliot Hamilton, it was “eight months of recovery with extensive physical therapy.” This was after he experienced a torn labrum in his hip from football.

In high school, not everyone can drive yet. This means commitment from family members, typically parents, is needed to provide transportation to every medical appointment. This can be a scheduling nightmare for parents and extremely hard for those who hold jobs or have other commitments in their time.

School commitments are important but also time consuming for the student-athlete, and the amount of time it takes up for a student-athlete to be injured can be overwhelming. Elliot Hamilton commented on the topic and said, “It was all really difficult to manage on top of school.” When you are going to a doctor two to three times per week, with school work still coming in at a regular pace, and attempting to remain part of your team by showing up to events and practices, everything builds on top of itself.

It is not just the sacrifice of time and moral support that parents provide in the injury process. The financial aspect is tremendous. Margi Hamilton said one of the biggest things for parents when looking at medical expenses is the “initial sticker shock.” She continued by saying, “It’s expensive but you have to just figure it out.”

When talking with Ms. Bednarek about keeping athletes optimistic through an injury, some common pieces of advice she gives to kids is to take it “one day at a time” and “look forward to what we can do.” This encourages kids through the recovery process and maintains the thought of optimism in the athlete.