Thursday, April 25, 2013

Coping with trauma

By Denae McGaha, Guest Writer
For an athlete, the human body is the greatest asset. But it can also be the greatest vulernability.

Injury has always been a risk of participating in athletics. "As an athlete you always have that on your mind, that you may get injured," first-year Nicoya Benham-Marin, a soccer player, said.

Benham-Marin suffered a serious concussion last season.

"If I get one more, I can’t play soccer anymore," she said. However, this risk doesn’t keep Benham-Marin from putting forth her best effort.

"I try not to play differently. I see it as, ‘I’ll take a hit for my team,’" Benham-Marin said. "If it takes me out of the game forever, at least I know I was working hard for my team, and I was doing my best."

Injuries can change circumstances off the field as well as on the field. Sophomore Bjorn Slater was looking to play baseball at the University of Hawaii until he tore a ligament in his elbow. Slater said he found that even though his injury removed him from baseball, it provided a new perspective about athletics.

"You get caught up in the sporting world," Slater said, speaking of the time-consuming commitment of being a student athlete. "But there’s a lot more out there to experience."

Since coming to Pacific Lutheran University, Slater said he has discovered some of those new experiences, one of which is the ultimate frisbee team.

Samantha North, a sophomore phenom on the volleyball team, was given a new outlook on sports as well after she tore her ACL during a routine pregame warm up. Being taken out of the game reaffirmed her feelings toward the sport.

"Having my knee hurt was kind of a blessing," North said. "I was sitting on the sidelines watching everybody … it was a realization for me — ‘this is why I play, I love the game so much.’"

Benham-Marin echoes these feelings toward soccer. "I really love it," Benham-Marin said. "[Soccer] taught me a lot about how to work and relate to other people, a lot about myself — how to overcome challenges."

Following an injury, a more overlooked challenge is the emotional toll it can have on an athlete.

"It was … tough at the time," Slater said, speaking of the time following his injury. "I played baseball because I loved playing the sport."

Benham-Marin recalls her reaction. "I expected myself to come back within a week," she said. "When the trainers told me that I was going to be out for almost a month, I was heartbroken."

But true to the Division III moniker of student-athletes, these sports players have learned a lot from their experiences.

"This is not as bad as it could have been," North said, keeping a positive outlook. Slater spoke along similar lines. "I learned to appreciate what you have when you have it, because it’s kind of hard to go back once it’s gone."

The possibility of injury is a part of athletics. Constantly in motion, athletes must find ways to deal with that risk. Even with the physical and emotional tolls, changed plans and physical therapy that comes with an injury, athletes continue to play. Even though all of this puts them under the risk of worse injury, athletes continue to play. Like Benham-Marin said: "anything can happen at any time, so play your hardest, give it all you can, and give it all out for your team no matter what."