Student-athletes sign up for the love of the game. They also subject themselves to hours of workouts, practices, and conditioning to be both physically and mentally fit for competition during the season. Sports are a way for students to improve their skills and what they are capable of doing. For some, sports are also an escape and a time to spend with friends. Sometimes though, heavy or extreme amounts of training make for dangerous conditions and situations, which can lead to injury. 

Injuries during the season not only affect the individual player, but the entire fabric of the team. This matters especially if you are one of the strongest players on that team. If you are the captain, an upperclassman, or even a younger team leader, you are deemed as valuable and dependable to your coach, to your teammates, and, by extent, important to the school and community of which you are also a part.  There is a significant difference in being out for a few weeks rather than your entire sport’s season.

To start, I spoke with two members of the football team and their coach.

Each of these athletes had different experiences of what a minor or major sports injury looks like, and how they are dealing with theirs. 

Senior Lucas Kiefer, who was injured during the football season, shared what he remembers and how his recovery has been. “It was the game versus Mineral Point,” he said,  “when I got hit pretty hard on a kick return.” Kiefer went on to say that it resulted in a broken collarbone and that he was out for two weeks. “It will take around five months before it’ll be entirely healed,” he said.

During those weeks, he noted that he had to rely a little more on others to help him out, but is now beginning to rely more on himself. When asked how schooling proceeded when he got back, Kiefer replied, “Teachers were more lenient on due dates, and helped me catch up.” This assistance is really helpful to recovering athletes because these types of breaks don't allow for frequent, regular function or movement. 

Senior Brayden Edge’s story was a bit different. Brayden suffered an ankle injury during the football season. I had asked him to try to recount what happened during the game. With an amused look on his face he admitted, “I stepped on Nick Hampton’s foot... and then I watched my ankle completely snap. I thought it was definitely broken,” Edge said.

He found out later that it was a badly sprained ankle. As one would assume, Edge was pretty torn up because he knew his senior season was over. For a sprained ankle, his recovery has consisted of laser treatments every day. This would hasten the regenerative healing process. 

  He told me “it’s a cold laser, so you can’t feel it.” Edge held up his phone showing a video of the red lasers working on his ankle. “It’s for the pain receptors,” he said. The cold laser treatment that he used was to help heal the damaged nerves more quickly, and to reduce any inflammation he had. This treatment can also help reduce the possibility of a re-sprain in the future.

Injury tends to be more prevalent in football because of the impactful physical contact. Our athletic director and head coach of the Potosi/Cassville football team, Mark Siegert, had a lot to say from the start about his coaching philosophy, and how an individual player and the entire team bounces back from an injury-induced setback. I took it that his strategy was simple, in that he depended on the rest of the team to fill in the gaps. “Hopefully,” he said “you have someone in line who knows the position and you can move forward without too much of a bump in the actual game.” For Coach Siegert, adaptation is key, not only for the player, but for the team as a whole.

Throughout his athletic career, Coach Siegert has played and coached many football games. From this kind of experience, he knows how to build grit into the football program. Siegert recalls the equipment and resources on hand from when he played. “Looking back they would say, ‘oh it’s nothing’ you know, ‘get back in there.’” Siegert said. “Now, that’s just not the case.”

The truth is, we have more information now. New advancements in technology and science have made a difference in both the prevention and recovery of sports injuries. “The game has changed, and the way we look at injuries has changed,” he said matter-of-factly. The grit is still there; protectiveness and safety are just taken into much more consideration now.

When asked what the best way to prevent injury is, he responded with: “The way we train.” 

He said that getting prepared, and being present in the weight room will benefit you as an athlete. “The best method is to be here; to move and train outside of competition.”  This kind of persistent, consistent mentality will make you into a better athlete, individually, and in relation to your teammates.  (Try to) “get ready, and be ready,” he said. “Being the best possible version of yourself.”

I found that Mr. Siegert’s energy and pride for his team are what make him a successful Coach.

When asked about the advice he had for student-athletes in recovery, his response was real and uplifting. “I hope that you’ve trained really hard and that you can hopefully have an easier recovery time.” The coach made sure to add, “You are still a valuable member of the team.”

His suggestion: “Try your hardest” to return as soon as possible if your injury is minor or manageable. 

After interviewing these next two students, I learned that this mentality is shared in every sport.

Sophomores Elle Pierce and Caden Liebfried were both injured while playing basketball during summer break. Their entire sports seasons were compromised.

 In Elle’s interview, she told me how it was a non-impact injury. She said, “I was bringing the ball down the court, planted my left foot for a crossover, and my knee went the opposite direction. Then, I felt my knee “pop.” Pierce recalls seeing her mom, Coach Patterson, and an athletic trainer there. And, remembers being conflicted, while also having a bad gut feeling that something wasn’t right. She found out weeks later that a torn meniscus and ACL took her down. 

She talked mostly about the aftermath of the injury and her recovery. Pierce said they didn’t know what was wrong at first, but she kept walking on it to keep it strong before surgery. “While I waited a month for the insurance company to approve my MRI, I spent most of my time rehabbing on my own,” she said. “I decided that I needed to stay in shape, and began walking 2-3 hours a day. I thought that by walking, I could heal faster and return sooner.” 

Pierce said that in the beginning she was frustrated because she didn’t know what to do with her time. “I miss running, conditioning, and working to get better. I miss training on my own, and playing with my teams.” She said that even though she misses the full mobility she once had she is getting used to it. “Well, I've sort of adapted, and I found out that physical therapy was my top priority. It gets you stronger, and helps you decide what your next step is.”

Two weeks after surgery she returned to school to catch up on all she had missed. She quickly found that just walking the halls would be an exhausting task. “I learned that I couldn’t rely on others too much,” Pierce said. “I told myself ‘I’m not going to make myself a burden.’ I was capable of doing it, I just had to push myself.” 

After I interviewed Caden, I saw how each student had a similar experience.

Caden’s injury happened before the beginning of his freshmen year. It was July, and Caden was playing in a summer basketball tournament. It was a game versus Cassville on our home court in the highschool gym. Caden recalls the time on the scoreboard. “There were 10 or 15 seconds of the game left,” he said. “I held onto the padded wall near the hoop and dove for the ball.” There was a loud “Knock!” that followed. This sound was from the compound fracture in his left leg. There was an impact to the shin, and his tibia had popped out of place. Caden said, “someone must’ve swept my leg out.”

He doesn’t remember all of it, likely out of shock. Caden said, “The next thing I remember was that I was in the ambulance, headed to Lancaster.” Nonchalantly he said, “a few minutes into town we had to turn around.” Apparently, they found out too late that the Lancaster hospital didn’t have the resources needed to fix him up. “Yeah, when I was in the ambulance they drove me into Lancaster, and then turned around to go back to town. “Next thing I knew I was in Dubuque taking pain medication.” After this turn of events, he was taken to Iowa City where they surgically inserted a growth plate in his leg.

After surgery, Caden wore a cast for three weeks, and a boot for months after that. He would also need to use a wheelchair. “My PT(physical therapy) consisted of using a treadmill for 20 minutes a day. I did stretches using some weight and tried to do leg extensions. After therapy, I would have to ice it.”

While most high school athletes would consider an injury as a setback or a catastrophe, Caden described it as “a wakeup call.”

“I took it for granted,” he said. “When it happened I was in pain. But, looking back on it now,” he said, “it gave me motivation.”

It's important to note that sports injuries are an obstacle for anyone who experiences them; however, they can also be seen as a time to reflect on what is really important.  The healing process isn’t something to be rushed, although from these students I have found that sometimes impatience can be a good thing and that perseverance is a common goal in these student-athletes.