Injuries are part of sports. Heck, they’re part of life, so it should come as no surprise when a kid who plays multiple sports for most of his life gets injured.
And yet, it was.
When I was in college, I was an usher at the stadium formerly known as the Superdome and I worked an event that brought college-level football players and scouts together. The athletes were showing-off their moves on the field; the guys with the clipboards were sitting in the stands. (And I was making sure everyone had a badge. Super glamorous.) At one point, one of the players took a tumble and the clipboard contingent gasped, then told me that it was a career-ending injury.
Just like that he was done playing football and his life was altered. I remember feeling bad for him, but I didn’t understand the depth of commitment he must have had to get to that point. I didn’t even know the guy’s name, just uttered a “what a shame” comment and calculated how much longer until my shift was over because the heels I was wearing were a painful footwear choice.
That’s what happens, right? We are so wrapped up in our own lives it’s really hard to put ourselves into others’. I was about the same age as the injured football player, but where my life was going after college was a big ol’ question mark and I assumed that he would land on his feet with the same bibbidi-bobbidi-boo that I would.
But now I’m a mom. A mom of a kid who plays sports, specifically baseball, basketball and football. Like a lot of kids, he began with T-ball and never stopped. We assumed we would be following his long-established, annual ball-cycle through high school: basketball, baseball, football, repeat. Since this spring our calendar was heavy with his middle school games and high school summer sport camps, games, clinics and practices.
He does have other interests: This is the kid who started his own eBay baseball card business at 11, he fishes like he’s on a mission, and he gets embarrassed when I mention what a talented writer he is. He’s already signed-up for high school student council and broadcasting club. But sports? At 14, sports is an identity. A jock. An athlete. That’s my kid.
In March it started to hurt.
In April he thought about telling us because it was getting worse.
In late May he threw a pitch and it felt like his “arm exploded.”
One of the things that isn’t in the parenting brochure is how much medical knowledge you acquire. Not enough to go pro, but more than I had ever imagined.
Torn UCL. Not a bad tear, not a surgery requiring tear, but a stop-all-sports, wear-an-arm-brace, and go-to-physical therapy tear. In that one explosive moment, he was out for the whole football season, all of summer basketball, and the end of spring and all of fall baseball.
I know this hurts him, not only physically, but emotionally. Sports teaches you a lot of things, and dealing with an injury is one of the hardest.
As his mom my heart hurts with his, but as an adult I know this is not a big deal in the Book of Big Deals. I know he’ll heal and this time will be a retrospective blip. If, by some chance, the injury doesn’t heal; if he ends up like the Superdome player, I know that he has so much going for him that everything will be OK.
But I’m not 14. I can tell him all of that but I can’t make him believe it> He has to live it first.
Another painful, hard-learned life lesson is that there is no bibbidi-bobbidi-boos, but there are often surprises. Sometimes bad, sometimes good but only time and perspective will tell which.