Plagued by Injuries, Cirino Strives to Heal Others



Plagued by Injuries, Cirino Strives to Heal Others

Jason Mitala

Fractured ankles? Broken bones? Torn ligaments? Villanova freshman receiver Dan Cirino has seen it all. Spanning a football career of some odd 10 years, Cirino has experienced firsthand the onslaught of ugly injuries that has been plaguing one of America’s most beloved pastimes. And with current and ex-players alike openly criticizing the game’s injury problem on its highest level, changes to the sport are imminent. Cirino’s solution? Attacking the problem head-on.

As Villanova football recovered from the joy of defeating an FBS Temple squad at the Linc and the sting of dropping a tight match to Towson week two, I had an opportunity to catch up with Cirino and chat about football, life at ‘Nova and the future of the game he loves. Cirino was quick to compliment the support he has received from upperclassmen both on and off the field, noting that his teammates’ experiences with being “coached-up” throughout freshman year have been useful in his transition. 

“Yeah, it’s been great so far; learning a lot from upperclassmen about adapting to being a student athlete, balancing academics, learning a lot on the field,” Cirino said of his first few weeks with the team. Shifting the conversation to past experience, we discussed some of the key injuries that shaped his playing career at his high school alma mater, Pope John Paul II, of Royersford, PA.

“So, I’ve sprained my MCL and tore my meniscus my senior year, sprained an ankle, fractured my fibula, tore an ankle ligament and broken my ribs,” he said. “[I] Initially played through the torn meniscus.” Cirino was open when speaking about his long list of setbacks that spanned his high school years, also briefly describing the games he was forced to miss. His list of sprains and fractures is not surprising, seeing as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) continues to rank football as the sport incurring the most injuries per practice/game session. Even with the crutch of setback, Dan was still the all team leader in receiving yards and touchdowns, receptions, points scored and total yards at his high school.

However, when asked about his reaction to his many injuries, Dan answered, “Obviously injuries suck and all, but I’ve found myself interested in what happened, asking the doctor how it occurred, how I can come back from an athletic standpoint.” Further, Cirino seems to have a vested interest in injuries occurring to the football world in general. 

“If I see it happen on TV, I’ll try and look it up and diagnose it on my own. I just have a strong interest in injuries,” he said. (If you were wondering, Dan thinks Carson Wentz looks all right, a little rusty)

A true student athlete, Dan looks to combine his love of football with his interest in injuries, hoping to become a non-orthopedic sports doctor. “I always pick the doctor’s brain and ask them questions to understand what’s happening and I want to be able to do that when I’m older,” Cirino said when asked directly about the correlation between his injuries and future career. He believes his history of dealing with the same injuries he will treat one day will be useful in patient care, saying he can “relate to [the injured athletes] and tell them what I know from experience.”

Cirino still has some work left to accomplish on the field before he can move onto treating athletes. He will be part of a unique group of Villanova football players who will see some serious competition before a 2022 graduation, including an away matchup versus nationally ranked Penn State in 2021. But for now, Cirino and his teammates will have to settle for Stony Brook.