Recovering from a sports injury

 have been playing football since I was 10 years old. Like most football players, I’ve had sprains and scrapes, but had never experienced an injury that kept me from the game I love. But during a game in 2013, I felt the fear and panic that comes with a season-ending sports injury. 

I’m the starting center for Rice University. Rice and the University of Houston have been sports rivals for years, and the teams have played an annual football game since 1971. On Sept. 21, 2013, we were playing against UH at NRG Stadium. We lined up to kick an extra point when my right arm was caught between our long snapper and a UH player. I felt the weight crushing down on my arm and saw the doctors rushing toward me, but it took me a moment to feel the pain and realize that my right arm was broken in several places. Intense pain was all I could feel, and all I could think was that I’d just experienced my final play of college football.

I was taken off the field and had X-rays taken at the stadium before being transported via ambulance to Houston Methodist Hospital. Dr. Shari Liberman was on call that night. By the time I met her, I was panicking about everything – using my arm again, finishing college, playing football, getting a job, having a normal life. Dr. Liberman calmed me down and explained the extent of my injury and exactly how she was going to fix it. She didn’t sugarcoat anything and told me recovery would be hard, but that regaining normal use of my arm was possible.

I've played football since I was 10. In 2013 I experienced the panic that comes from a sports injury Click To Tweet

I needed surgery as soon as possible, but we had to wait four days for the swelling to go down. Dr. Liberman planned to put my arm back together using titanium plates and screws. However, during surgery she found that the titanium wasn’t going to work because the thread on the screws was too fine for the extent of my injury. She removed the titanium plates and screws and replaced them with stainless steel. Eight hours later, the surgery was done. I stayed in the hospital five more days for observation and treatment.  

For the next two months, my arm was in a locked brace to give the bone time to heal properly, but the brace made even simple tasks difficult. I had amazing family and friends supporting me, but I could not wait to get that brace off. As soon as the brace came off, I started rehabbing with Ricardo Young, a certified hand therapist at Houston Methodist. When Ricardo first started working with me, I was barely able to move my arm because I’d lost so much muscle strength. I had therapy nearly every day for several months and slowly regained my strength and mobility.

Before I knew it, I was able to start training with the Rice athletic staff. A few weeks after that, I was able to work out with the football team again. In June 2014, less than a year after that fateful game and play, Dr. Liberman cleared me to play football again – just in time to start practicing for the 2014-15 season, which will be my last as a Rice college student. 

After such a severe injury, I thought I would never play again, but I’m a starter! It was a feeling of relief and excitement to be back on the field with my teammates. I don’t even worry about my elbow – I just play football. And, it’s all thanks to Dr. Liberman and Ricardo. Go Owls!

Matt Simonette

Matt Simonette

Matt Simonette is a red shirt senior and starting center on the Rice University football team. He’s majoring in sports management and minoring in business. After he graduates in December 2014, he plans to remain in Houston and work in the oil and gas industry.
Matt Simonette

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Matt Simonette

Matt Simonette is a red shirt senior and starting center on the Rice University football team. He’s majoring in sports management and minoring in business. After he graduates in December 2014, he plans to remain in Houston and work in the oil and gas industry.