Brown: Career threatening injuries loom over major sports

Carolyn Brown

Everyone has tried to play some sort of sport in their day. Whether it is tee ball when you were four years old or basketball at the college level, playing a sport is something even the uncoordinated kid in fourth grade can relate to. Everyone has played a sport.

The passion for sports is increasing, and more and more athletes are pushing themselves at an extremely young age to be able to compete at the highest level possible – whether it be the college or pro level. Baseball players are now recruited out of high school, and basketball players are put on lists to watch sometimes even in middle school.

The world of sports is intense. Lives are centered on practice, training and competition. School is even sometimes forgotten in this “sports are everything” mentality. As long as an athlete is successful in his or her sport, they are successful in life. But, what happens when it is all over?

In one instant, a sports career can come crashing to the ground. An athlete’s life is suddenly over, leaving him or her with nowhere to turn but to the question, “Was it all worth it?”

When Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was thrown to the ground in the game against the Denver Broncos in the season opener, not only was his football career at stake, but the question of surviving remained unanswered. After missing his rookie season due to a knee injury, at 25 years old in one second of one out of probably thousands of football games he has played in his entire life, one hit was going to decide his future. As he wakes up and is able to move his arms and slowly gain his strength, I can only wonder whether or not he is regretting his decision to choose athletics as his career. Or is he more worried that he might never be able to play football again?

Injuries happen every day in sports, some more extreme than others. Athletes are put through treatment and find themselves back in practice in a given time. No thoughts even cross their minds about never returning to practice, until – bam – they have a career-ending injury. Is passion enough to keep athletes going?

Choosing a career in athletics is like a pre-med student choosing they want to be a doctor. Hard work, effort and dedication are all characteristics of what it takes to make it in both professions. However, when a doctor shows up to work, it is a lot more unlikely that his or her career could end within one second, compared to an athlete when they show up to a game.

To succeed in athletics, passion is a necessity. You have to have the drive to put your body through the rigorous training that any sport demands, and we learn this at a young age. Not only are we pushed by ourselves but also by family and friends to be the best at our chosen sport. I think every parent hopes that one day their kid will be the next Tiger Woods or Mia Hamm.

Competition is getting stronger, and a person’s chance to succeed at the top level even more limited. It puts that much more pressure on athletes to excel and a requirement that they push everything else in the world to the side in order to remain focused on only their sport. It’s the love for the game that keeps athletes such as Everett on the field, but if they knew that one tackle was going to end their career, or even their life, would they show up for the game? Would you be willing to play a sport knowing that one day you weren’t going to be able to play catch with your son or daughter, or maybe even walk?

For those of us who have chosen to partake in sports we love at Villanova, I don’t think we can have a moment of regret. Not only are we able to continue our passion for sports at a top level, but we are able to gain an education that you cannot find at many schools. A career-ending injury would be most unfortunate, but athletes here are lucky enough to have a back-up plan: a prestigious education. Passion for the sport will never cease, but abilities might, and it only takes an injury like Everett’s for us to realize that sports might not last forever. I just hope that for all athletes, passion is enough to outweigh any regrets.

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Carolyn Brown is a senior communication major from Oklahoma City, Okla. She can be reached at [email protected]