Sports Commentary Rehabilitation is not just a physical fight

If you are playing a competitive sport, there’s a good chance that at some point you will push your body beyond its limits and injure yourself. The human body was not built to throw a ball 100 miles per hour, to take consistent crushing blows to the head, nor to have 350-pound men trying to stop you by slamming themselves directly into your knees. So, unfortunately, some of the most talented athletes in the world, along with those with less talent, tend to get injured.

For example, the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl with 15 players on injured reserve. Starters Nick Barnett and Jermichael Finley only played in a combined nine games after being lost for the season early on this year.

Additionally, starters Donald Driver and Charles Woodson were injured during the Super Bowl itself and ended up missing more than half the game.

One of the most difficult things for these injured players to do is to watch the rest of the game or season from the sideline. Despite the fact that they are extremely talented players — some of the best in the world at what they do — they are prevented from contributing to the team they worked year-long for.

This can take a big toll on the psyche of injured players. Going back to the Packers example, a stir was caused during Super Bowl week when the Packers announced that they would be taking a team photo for the Super Bowl on the Tuesday before the game, two full days before the 15 Packers on injured reserve were being flown to Dallas. They were already forced to the sideline for nearly the entire season, and now it seemed like they were being shooed away from a team event that they helped make happen.

Thankfully, the Packers came to their senses and moved the day of the team photo to one where every member could make it.

Similar issues are faced by players in many sports. I am the captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team here at Carnegie Mellon, and way back in September, I tore my ACL in practice.

I suffered one of the worst injuries possible in terms of rehabilitation, eliminating any chance of playing with my team from October all the way through our spring season.

It has been one of the biggest disappointments of my life that I am unable to contribute on the field to the team I have helped improve for these past three years. While I still fulfill my duties as captain, there’s an extra dynamic of playing that just isn’t there anymore. I can easily see how Nick Barnett and countless others could feel detached from their team when they are unable to perform on the field.

Watching one’s team play is difficult to deal with, for some more than others. I have seen other players on my team get injured and deal with being unable to play in different ways.

Teammates have been shown to treat injured players differently. In the professional realm, there have been stories written about how teams deal with teammates who are unable to play.

Former Yankee starting pitcher Carl Pavano, who signed a $40 million deal with the team some six years ago, was reportedly disliked by nearly everyone who played for the Yankees during his four seasons with them after he experienced constant shoulder and elbow injuries.

It is upsetting to me to see players like Pavano, and more recent cases with NFL players Jay Cutler and LaDainian Tomlinson, treated poorly by fellow athletes and the media, because I can tell you firsthand that I would have been devastated if my teammates in any way shunned or were upset with me for getting injured this season.
I’m sure Barnett and Finley were ecstatic to see their team win the Super Bowl, and I myself would be thrilled to see my team make regionals, but it’s hard to deny that there’s a little piece of that happiness missing because you weren’t able to play in the games that got your team to that ultimate achievement.