Keeping Athletes in the Game

Fall is here, and for many people that means one thing: football. Whether it is tuning in for Monday Night Football, College Game Day or the local Friday night lights, one thing’s for sure; it wouldn’t be a game without a good tackle. You know; the ones that make you say “ouch.” If it’s not on the field with the Cape Fear Heroes Arena Football team or in the rink with the Fayetteville FireAntz Hockey team, there is plenty to do to protect local middle and high school athletes from injury. And while rehabilitation is important, so is ensuring that young athletes are prepared for their return to sport.

10-09-13-to-your-health.gifAn injury is a devastating blow to a young athlete with aspirations of college play, and for many athletes, return to sport after an injury seems an impossible feat. Take Anthony, a senior and starting running back at Pine Forest High School in Fayetteville, for example. He loves the game, and has been playing since he was eight years old. Last fall, Anthony suffered a season-ending injury during the third game that forced him to watch the remaining season from the sidelines. He sustained a severe foot fracture that required surgery, followed by several months of physical therapy (PT). Anthony needed physical therapy to rehabilitate from his injury, and like many patients, wasn’t sure what to expect: “I had no idea what I would be doing,” he recalls. Anthony’s rehabilitation focused on returning to his prior level of function, with sports-specific training to prepare him to return to football. Anthony’s PT was overseen by a doctor of physical therapy as well as a certified athletic trainer, who saw to it that Anthony returned to football better than he left it: “PT is all about working to get back to where you were, but it got me further,” he said. “Now I’m better than I was … I’m much faster, quicker and stronger, and that was the PT.”

Anthony’s story is like countless others who have been injured during play, but the difference between good and great outcomes lies in perseverance. Instead of giving up and giving in, Anthony worked tirelessly to ensure he was standing beside his teammates as a starting running back on the varsity football team this year. If you find yourself with an injury of your own, whether from playing your favorite sport or while out for an evening stroll, the rules are the same. To endure, you must be dedicated and determined, and allow the injury to inspire your improvement physically, mentally and emotionally. It is important for patients to become a part of their own recovery: so be in control of your healing, set goals, plan for setbacks, and know how to handle them. An injury can slow you down and limit what you can do on the field, but don’t let it be the reason you give up; don’t let it keep you out of the game.

Photo: While injuries are a fact of life for many athletes, with good care and hard work these can be overcome.

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