BY HUNTER DONELSON
Truman quarterback Carter Brown drops back looking for an open receiver. From his right side, a Liberty North linebacker flies in and delivers a direct hit to the elbow. Three plays later, another crash directly into the elbow. The Patriots offense comes off the field as Brown feels his arm go numb.
Without knowing exactly what it was, Brown played through it for nearly three weeks. But in Week 5 against cross-town rival William Chrisman, he really started feeling the pain.
“I don’t even know how I’m throwing right now, it hurts so f****** bad,” Brown told a teammate on the sidelines.
Under the pressure of high expectations from coaches, teammates, and fans, Brown played with a broken elbow for nearly three weeks. But this is just one of far too many cases of high school athletes trying to play through the pain. Each year, 7.6 million high school student-athletes in the United States take to the court or field, many of them pursuing an athletic career expanding further. Of those 7.6 million student-athletes, 2 million receive medical treatment for a sports-related injury.
These injuries range from broken bones and torn ligaments to something as serious as concussions. Each year in the United States approximately 300,000 high school athletes sustain a concussion. Some athletes have even decided to discontinue their careers because of it.
“It’s no news to anyone that concussions have been on the rise. I have noticed more athletes are choosing to no longer play contact sports, avoiding the risk altogether,” said Truman Athletic Trainer, Nikki Fernandez.
These risks extend beyond just contact sports. Athletic endeavors like cheerleading and dance also put massive amounts of stress on growing muscles and bones. And much like their more contact-oriented counterparts, this stress can lead to injury.
Truman Starstepper Paige Kioh (KUH-ch) suffered a knee injury this past June while dancing. It was serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor where they told her that she had a mass in between the bones of her left knee.
“I was upset, shocked, and surprised because I didn’t want to miss anything during my senior year,” said Kioh.
In order to not miss out, she would have to dance through the pain, similar to what Brown did last season. “I want to dance and I need to dance before I can’t dance anymore. By that I mean before it locks up again,” said Kioh.
Even though it sounds like she just wants to dance, she also feels some pressure from her coaching staff to continue performing.
“If I don’t dance then they’ll take me out of the routine and give my spot up to someone else. It’s almost like a punishment for being injured, then they make you feel bad about it on top of that,” said Kioh.
And she’s not alone. Statistics show that knee injuries are the second-most common injury among cheerleaders and dancers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this particular injury occurs at a rate of nearly 12% in cheerleaders and dancers. Knee injuries also account for slightly more than 15% of all high school sports injuries.
While Kioh is dancing through the discomfort, Brown is struggling with yet another injury. In this year’s matchup with the William Chrisman Bears, a defender leveled a shot to his midsection in the fourth quarter and he felt some discomfort in his abdomen. Brown played through the pain for the rest of the game and visited the hospital after the game. The doctors informed him that he had lacerated his kidney and if he had played much longer it could have become life-threatening. Sports have become such a big part of the high school culture that athletes are willing to risk their bodies and, in some cases, their lives to bring home a win for their school.