It is no secret that sports play an integral role in the daily lives of many MBA students. Tabbed as one of three core elements in MBA’s motto of “Gentleman, Scholar, Athlete,” sports serve as an outlet from and a complement to the rigors of the classroom.
Many valuable lessons are to be learned on the court, field, or track. Sports teach student-athletes the fundamentals of discipline, team-dynamics, commitment, and time-management. They concern themselves with practical learning of the technical, physical, and mental variety.
Moreover, one of the greatest challenges on this hypothetical sports learning curve is the sports injury. This setback is commonplace in competitive sports, and student-athletes are constantly circulating in-and-out of the Athletic Trainer’s office. From minor tweaks and aches to breaks and tears, Athletic Trainer Emeka Nnadi and his supporting staff field it all.
The immediate course of action being physical therapy, student-athletes engage in various recovery processes. While some injuries require a “waiting game,” others involve a more intentional regiment. Several MBA students have elicited the services of rehab programs such as MPower to expedite this process.
While the physical aspect of sports injuries is pressing, it is the psychological component that is more demanding. Student-athletes must overcome oftentimes overlooked emotional hurdles in order to remain mentally engaged upon a return to action.
To investigate this challenge further, The Bell Ringer reached out to three student-athletes who have dealt and are dealing with crippling injuries.Ford Brewer, a senior basketball player, has been sidelined due to a series of three concussions he endured over his sophomore and junior years. Emphasizing the emotional toll that these concussions had on him, Ford shared, “The main difficulty I have had is dealing with the feeling of disappointment about not being able to play basketball. . . I had a lot more emotional issues regarding my sophomore year because my recovery took so long.”
He proceeded to describe the sense of entrapment he felt: “I experienced a lot of depression and isolation because I was literally trapped in my house, and it was difficult for me to articulate the problems with which I was dealing.”
Jamison Russ, a senior cross-country and track runner, had similar input. While he was not physically removed like Ford, Jamison felt isolated as a bone bruise on his femur has removed him from most kinetic activity for 18 months and counting.
He shared, “I simply did not believe that it would take me [two years] to heal. Obviously, the doctors were right because I am just now able to resume some physical activity on my leg. . .There are still moments where not being able to run really stinks, especially on a really pretty day or when I watch my friends kick at the finish of race.”
Yet, both Ford and Jamison remain adamant in their involvement with their respective sports. By staying engaged, the two asserted that they could diminish the psychologically handicapping effects of their injuries.
“Even though I cannot play basketball this year, I am going to work as the team’s videographer. I also have continued to lift and run with the team during offseason workouts, and I plan to make the trips to away games with the team,” said Ford.
Jamison emphasized the significance of patience and responsibility in dealing with his injury: “The biggest challenge for me is that I am cleared to join activity whenever I feel ready. That freedom means that I have no accountability; when my leg feels okay, I get really excited and run, instead of waiting for it to be fully healed. This pattern has probably been a factor in how long I have been hurt.”
This cycle has forced Jamison to adapt. Building-up body and muscle strength certainly helps with running, but maintaining cardiovascular shape while being unable to run is a much more daunting task. He has become progressively more creative in maintaining his running form.
Jamison noted, “In the early stages of being injured, I cross-trained in the pool pretty heavily to stay in cardiovascular shape, so that when I was healthy, I could jump right in.”
Similarly to Ford, Jamison upholds the importance of staying connected to his team: “With cross country, I have tried to maintain support for the guys, especially on race day, but also just encouragement and discussion in the hallways about how practice and workouts are going.”
The third student-athlete The Bell Ringer interviewed was Michael McGuire, the starting running back for the football team. During the Big Red’s week four game against MUS, Michael dislocated his left elbow and tore nearly all of the surrounding cartilage.
While Ford’s and Jamison’s injuries have hindered them for multiple years, Michael’s injury has a much shorter timetable for recovery. He hopes to return for the Brentwood Academy game on October 20.
Michael echoed Jamison’s sentiment about denial following the injury: “At first, it took me awhile to get used to the fact that I was actually injured. All I wanted to do was go practice with the guys because we only have so many days left.”
That being said, Michael was quick to assert that positivity is a must when playing the mental game: “Very quickly I realized that pouting gets nothing done, so I try to stay positive and work to get back as fast as possible. Luckily, I will be able to return before the end of the season. [Bearing that in mind], I need to come back better than ever, and that keeps me focused.”
Michael flips his disappointment over missing football games on its head, allowing these raw emotions to fuel him. He projects enthusiasm on the sideline during games, and he pumps up his teammates when they are in need of a big play.
Michael said, “[I] go to practice every day and get the guys going. The main thing is keeping a positive attitude and enjoying watching your friends play even though you can’t.”
To that point, Michael reveals another layer in the role of the injured student-athlete: he must carry himself in a way that does not discourage his teammates. It is imperative that the student-athlete’s injury does not distract the focus of the team.
In each of these three cases, the student-athletes have encouraged their fellow teammates not to worry about the implications of their injuries. In the case of Jamison and Ford, they will not compete again in cross-country and basketball respectively, but they have crafted for themselves leadership roles in attempts to make their teams better.
For most football teams, the loss of the starting running back would be a tremendous blow. Consequently, the Big Red’s prolongation of their perfect record despite Michael’s injury stands as a testament to the mental toughness of the team. Part of that mental toughness is certainly due to the leadership of injured players like Michael, Wesley Hall, or Jackson McFadden.
The psychological battle that injured student-athletes must play is a give-and-take dynamic. They must remain mentally locked-in by keeping the team’s goals at the forefront of their recovery effort, and they must not distract the team with a negative mindset.