The first time I heard the phrase “play hurt” was when my friend got it tattooed on her rib cage on her 18th birthday. At the time, I thought it was sweet. It was a phrase her father repeated to her as he encouraged her to fight on from the sidelines of both sports games and life. I then came to college and saw the epidemic that is athletic injuries, and I began to think otherwise. Since being here, I can’t help but wish to add a “Do Not” to the front of my friend’s tattoo and maybe even a subtitle saying, “Seriously That is Such a Bad Idea, If You Are Hurt You Should Not Play.” However, I don’t think my advice would be well-received.
After realizing the falsity of this statement, I noticed the common association between pain and victory. Take the phrase, “no pain, no gain,” for example. I can’t help but think the gain would be much more rewarding had the pain not been involved. So, this week, I set out to find the answer to the questions: Since when is pain a good thing? When is enough, enough?
Perhaps one of the most painful injury stories I have heard is that of sophomore Rowan Frederiksen, the women’s soccer goalie, who tore her ACL two years in a row and is still recovering from the most recent injury. Despite the pain of recovery, Frederiksen said that the hardship is well worth being a part of the team. “Even though I can’t play now, I’m still very much a part of the team,” she said. “Being able to stand on the sideline and be there for my teammates through the wins and the losses is something that will stick with me forever. When I come back, I’ll learn from our mistakes and have a totally different perspective on the game than before.”
I was amazed by how positive Frederiksen was able to remain, despite such a disappointing record with injury. To the surprise of many, the keeper plans on returning in a big way. Frederiksen is looking forward to playing next year and even staying a fifth year to play as much as possible. When it comes to lessons, Frederiksen seems to think the pain of her injury has helped her more than harmed her. “I’ve learned to trust my body and myself more than anything,” she explained. “I also learned not to take anything for granted.”
As a NARP, I avoid pain at all costs, rarely standing for more than a few minutes at a time. Before you draw any conclusions about my experience with pain—though nowhere near the experiences of athletes at CC—let me take you back to the third grade.
The year was 2005 and the hit song “My Humps” was sweeping the nation. On a fateful spring afternoon, my crumping got the best of me and somehow resulted in a broken foot. You know what I did after I heard the crack? I got back up, and danced on one foot. Maybe it was Fergie’s voice, or maybe it was the fact that my brother was videotaping me, but something in me decided to “play hurt.” The pain resulted in a good story and an even better home video.
While it seems the athletes here value their health and safety above all else, the importance of their team means sometimes knowing when to smile through the pain, and play hurt—Even if it means watching from the sidelines for a season.