Sports Injuries: Who Decides Who Plays?

“You’re supposed to hurt in wrestling.” I remember those words my son quoted the coach telling him when Jacob complained that his wrist ached.  The high school trainer had told him to put ice on it.  And he did. And ignored an aching wrist for the entire wrestling season and didn’t tell me.

When spring sports began, and he decided to play lacrosse, he casually mentioned to a friend that his wrist hurt. And that friend told him to go to a doctor.  Thankfully.

It’s been many years since Jacob graduated from high school where he wrestled four years. His freshman year he suffered this injury, which lead to major surgery to repair a tiny bone in his wrist. He needed a bone graft from his hip,  had an overnight hospital stay (imagine!), and months of rehabilitation. Had he seen a doctor early on, he’d have had a few weeks wrapped in an ace bandage.

Whenever I hear of stories about coaches playing doctor, I’m reminded of this incident.  I remember thinking that the child protection authorities had every right to lock me up: I’d allowed a child to play a sport while injured.

Did I listen and learn from that time? Not really, though I insisted he tell me every time he had any sprain and off to the doctor we went for an x-ray.  Then, a few years later, when his sister was a high school junior, I allowed her to rule whether she played tennis or not. A pre-season sprain had left her with a weakened knee. She wore a brace the entire season. I nervously watched as it buckled during a few matches; and she, stalwart like a soldier, played on.  The day after the season ended we were at the orthopedist; three days later she had surgery to repair a torn ACL. 

Once again, I felt the authorities were going to knock on my door and drag me away in handcuffs.

So reading about the knee injuries plaguing star Knicks players and how Coach Mike Woodson allowed them to play, I grimaced and felt for their mothers.  CIMG2200

Having lived with teen athletes who insisted they stay in the game, I understand the sentiment of pleasing coaches, bolstering teammates and entertaining fans.  High school isn’t the big leagues. Yet these star players are role models. Perhaps if they owned up to their injuries, and sat on the bench a bit nursing knees, high school athletes would be less inclined to have to “buck up” and play through pain.

So time to ‘fess up. Have you let kids participate in sports knowing they had injuries? Have coaches made these decisions? Please share your stories!

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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12 Responses to Sports Injuries: Who Decides Who Plays?

  1. No, but I had a coach really lay into Laura when she was having severe headache stuff at soccer practice. To this day, still bothers me that he was so tough with her.

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  2. No, I’ve never had this experience but I can see how it would lay heavily on a mother’s heart!

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  3. mercyn620 says:

    I never experienced the injury stuff, but I did have kids more than once play when they were sick – and although getting through the game, got worse afterward.

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  4. This is an important subject, Lisa, and I’m glad you wrote about it. My grandson played elementary school ice hockey. He fell and actually lost consciousness, suffering a concussion. He WAS taken right to the hospital, but today’s doctors are so blasé abut the seriousness of some injuries, that they advised him to go right back in after a healing time of six weeks.

    Now the newspapers are full of stories about the long lasting effects of concussions. Matthew did get back in, suffered another concussion, and now is on the school track team instead of the ice hockey team.

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    • We had a similar incident with Nathan, our 2nd son. He dislocated his elbow during his freshman year early in the wrestling season so missed the season. His sophomore year, he broke his nose and then quit to swim. But the coaches felt he should have stayed on the team. We had a few problems too about vacations but that’s another issue.

      On Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 1:29 PM, cyclingrandma

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  5. As I pointed out in my recent post, about kids and school sports, I don’t like the level to which so many coaches demand blind commitment. Whether that applies to playing while injured, or skipping family trips to be there for matches/practices/etc… it all sits wrong with me. Tough one as its so endemic in our culture these days!

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    • Yes, thought of your post. We had a few run-ins regarding vacations too. For all the complaints we made about taking family trips, the coaches would cite all the families who weren’t going anywhere and were happy that their kids had something/somewhere to go.

      On Mon, Mar 18, 2013 at 2:59 PM, cyclingrandma

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  6. One of my student athletes was recovering from a viral infection that was not mono. . She wanted to play. I told her” This is not Pro Sports. You are not being paid and should not risk an injury.” She laughed and said she would not. Luckily, I had talked wit the trainer and she was not going to play anyway. We had decided on that. If you ask them how they feel, they will say “OK.” So, you have to just say “No.” We have seen such tragic consequences this year in all sports especially football. Robert Griffin III was a needless tragedy. Thanks for the pos

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  7. I remember about Jess always getting her ankle wrapped in field hockey, but for the life of me I don’t remember why

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  8. tchistorygal says:

    It’s a serious business, I think. Talk about high stakes! That’s sports for kids! A lot rests on getting to play and making a name for yourself! 🙂

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