Sidelined: The Road To Recovery for Student Athletes

Student athletes often have some of the busiest schedules on college campuses. Between classes and practices, semesters practically fly by. Each student athlete obviously has a passion for their sport, or they would not spend the countless hours training for the season.

But, in just one misstep, an injury could sideline an athlete for an entire season, derailing what could have been a breakout year.  

Around campus last year, I would see fellow students on crutches, walking boots, or arm slings all the time, without giving it a second thought.

Last summer, I tore the labrum in my left shoulder which required surgery. The doctor told me I would not be back to tennis for six months, and that was a daunting diagnosis. That experience changed the outlook I had on severe sports injuries, and the impact they can have on student athletes and how student athletes around campus use their time off injured in productive ways.

I would ride the stationary bike as soon as I was able to, just to stay in shape. But finding ways to be active were very difficult. I went to physical therapy three times a week, and never forgot to do my exercises before bed. There were many low points in my journey back, such as sitting on the couch with an ice pack on beautiful summer days, but maintaining a positive mindset and setting goals is one of the most essential aspects of achieving a full recovery.  

Ryan Hebert ‘22 who is looking to have a big impact on the baseball team, is in a similar or perhaps even in some ways a tougher situation. He suffered a full UCL tear in his throwing arm and will miss the entirety of his first collegiate season. “When I found out I was injured I was misdiagnosed with a sprained ligament in my elbow, something that only takes a few weeks to recover from so I was in good spirits,” Hebert said. “However, after two months, I never got better and requested an MRI which showed a full thickness tear of my UCL, which left me in a pretty dark place. That meant I wouldn’t pick up a baseball for nearly a year and miss the entirety of my freshman season, one where I was supposed to play a decent amount.”

“When I told my coach that I was out for the year, he told me that I was still a part of the team. I could help out with assistant coaching duties like keeping the scorebook and the scoreboard.” Yet, Hebert realized he could be doing more. He did not let the disappointment of the injury overshadow him. He decided to overtake all of the team’s social media duties to boost support for them around campus. “I realized that our team lacked a well run social media page. Being a big technology guy I thought it would be fun to start something to help our parents back at home follow the team as well as first hand looks into practice and traveling. I have experience with Photoshop so it felt like a fun way I could use my skills to stay involved with the team.”

One of the hardest parts about major sports injuries is understanding that the recovery period will require patience. There are no shortcuts. But, as Hebert is showing, there are numerous ways student athletes can contribute to their teams off the field. He also makes sure there is music at every practice.

So, the next time you see one of your classmates on crutches or in an arm cast around campus, they may not be making a difference on the field, but they may be making a difference off of it.

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