Kirkwood High School student newspaper

No pain, no gain

November 14, 2017

They don’t want to let their team down. They can’t.

To Nina Naes, junior, two broken toes means nothing if she can score just a few more goals. To Abby Gunn, senior, seriously bruising the bone in her elbow means nothing if she can just lead her team to victory. These athletes are just two of the 69 percent (146/212) currently playing sports at KHS, and a mere few of the many who feel as though it is their responsibility to put their sport in front of their health.

These types of sports injuries go well beyond the halls of KHS. According to the Sports Trauma and Overuse Prevention Organization (STOP), high school athletes account for 2 million injuries annually. STOP also found that body and muscle overuse accounts for half of these injuries, which simply means these young athletes are pushing themselves too hard. 84 percent (99/118) of student athletes reported they continued to play in a game after being injured. And 32.2 percent (38/118) said they had been instructed to continue playing by their coach. This data shows a majority of KHS athletes do not view these seemingly everyday injuries as a serious problem.
Through the stories of these athletes, the bigger picture of the state of injuries on the fields and courts of KHS becomes more clear.

ABBY GUNN

Abby Gunn was in the middle of yet another high-intensity varsity volleyball game, and everything was fine. As libero, a defensive position, she was used to diving for balls, falling on her knees and elbows throughout the game. But during one particular dive, on a point like any other, she fell straight down on her elbow. Hard. And yet, she didn’t tell her coach, and continued to play as if everything was fine.

“I knew right away it was bad,” Gunn said. “Right after it happened, I was in so much pain. But in that moment, I really needed to stay in the game, just to do my job. I’m going to do anything I can for my team, and I just really wanted to win.”

Gunn sustained a significant bone bruise on her elbow, which she was told by doctors won’t get worse as she continues to play. But she still feels pain whenever she makes contact with the ball. To curb the swelling, she applies ice regularly. She said she is thankful, however, that once she told her coaches about the injury, they immediately began working to come up with a plan to help her get better. They put her health before anything else, she said. So when other KHS students are faced with a mid-match injury, Gunn encourages them to take a similar approach.

“You have to know your own body,” Gunn said. “If you think you can push through for your team, you should do that. But if you know something is really wrong, you shouldn’t push yourself any further. You have to know the right balance [as well as] you as a person.”

NINA NAES

Nina Naes is no stranger to injuries. A broken elbow in eighth grade. A near fracture in her leg from overuse. Numerous sprained ankles. She’s fought through it all out of a love for her sport. Playing lacrosse has been a major part of her life since fifth grade, and she is constantly trying to push herself harder.

“I always put pressure on myself to be the fastest on the field and the best I can be,” Naes said. “I’m trying harder than a lot of the other girls on the team, and because of that, I get injured a lot more.

Mid-game last year, Naes broke two toes. She didn’t say anything. She just popped a few Ibuprofen and went back in the match. And despite running slower than normal, she led the team to victory, scoring several goals after the injury occurred, she said. Despite this, she said she wishes she had sat through the rest of the match.

“My mentality was ‘I’ll just keep playing, I’ll be fine’,” Naes said. “I just didn’t want to let my team down.”

A large part of the KHS athletics policy is the fact that students cannot decide whether or not they can continue to play when injured, especially in sports like football. The decision rests entirely on the shoulders of the coaches and athletic trainer. But what happens when an injury goes unreported to coaches and trainers alike? Because according to Gunn, getting hurt is something that happens to almost every student athlete. And when an injury does occur, most are of a mind to simply ‘push through’ and play the rest of the game.

“It’s not just me,” Gunn said. “It’s everyone on my team.”

Corey Nesslage, KHS athletics director, understands. He said he remembers his high school sports career, and that there were multiple occasions in which he played when he was hurt. But those injuries were never more than a bruise or a sprained ankle. He said playing with injuries on the scale of Gunn and Naes’s is unacceptable and dangerous. He urges athletes to be smart and know themselves, for their sake.

“You know your body better than I do,” Nesslage said. “I can’t tell you how bad you’re hurting. But if you can’t continue, tell [a coach]. Because if a student athlete is hurt or injured, the last place we want to put them is in the game.”

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