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!

Beyond Friday Night Lights

mployment of athletic trainers is expected to increase 30 percent between 2010 and 2020, especially in schools and youth leagues. Why? Because the long overdo realization that athletic trainers are essential members of the teams they support. They provide not only locker room and training guidance but also sideline medical care for everything from cuts to concussions. 

Approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports-related injures. (Statistic via Clearedtoplay.org)
Approximately 8,000 children are treated in emergency rooms each day for sports-related injures.

Over the years, we’ve all seen the number of sports leagues increase and the offseason time decrease. Often, students are going from one sport to the next without a real break—leaving their bodies ripe for injury.

Scott Tidwell, an outreach coordinator and athletic trainer with Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine, says the increase in injuries is driving the demand to have athletic trainers involved in the prevention and evaluation of sports injuries.

As the parent of a Hardin football player, Scott doesn’t go to the games just to watch his son play; he goes to work. It’s not unusual to see him on the sidelines of a Friday night varsity football game or a junior varsity basketball game at Hardin High School in Hardin, Texas.

Athletic trainer employment is expected to increase 30% due to the sideline medical care these experts provide Click To Tweet

Scotts visits once a week to work with athletes in grades seven to 12 at Hardin Junior High and High schools. He checks to see if an athlete is following the treatment plan provided by their doctor or physical therapist or evaluates a new injury. He also works with the coaches on everything from conditioning and equipment to nutrition in order to minimize injury.

Through Scott’s weekly visits to the Hardin campuses, he becomes familiar with the athletes and their families. This familiarity proved invaluable to Zane Drake, a football and baseball player at Hardin High School. After tackling an opponent during a Friday night game in 2010, then 13-year-old Zane was removed from the game.

 

I don’t like to admit when I’m in pain. But, after that tackle, I felt tingling in my neck and legs and could tell I wasn’t functioning correctly. Scott was there and knew immediately something was wrong. He got me on a stretcher and helped me keep calm.

 

Zane was flown to a nearby hospital to be checked for a suspected neck injury and was diagnosed with a stinger, a minor nerve injury common in athletes in high-contact sports. Since then, Zane has dealt with ankle injuries every football season. But with every injury, Scott has been there with guidance and advice.

Scott says it’s about connecting the Houston Methodist level of care with the community that he’s in that day. Whether he’s visiting Hardin, Onalaska or High Island, he’s incredibly passionate about being able to help the coaches, athletes and families of the communities he works in. 

For more information about the athletic training services provided by Houston Methodist, call the Houston Methodist Sports Medicine Hotline, staffed 24/7 by athletic trainers, at 713.441.8440.