Playing Hurt: Knowing When to Suit Up

    Schilling had just had surgery on his ankle, yet he was there, in a must-win game, putting the victory in the bag. Playing through injury is a touchy subject. In cases like Schilling’s, it was an amazing story of a player doing what needed to get done to win. It was similar to Jordan scoring 60 points in the playoffs with a severe cold.

    But more often than not, playing hurt makes things worse. What you may not remember is that the first bloody sock Schilling suffered cost the Red Sox game one in the ALCS. And Brett Favre, the toughest man on the planet, bar none, has played through some injuries — like a broken finger — to the chagrin of his fans everywhere.

    So the question begs to be asked: When do you compete injured? When can you actually contribute to the victory, rather than lead to the defeat because of your impediment?

    I’ve had to deal with this myself recently, not for the first time. I am hurt. I’ve realized that during these times that I am self-centered. It’s hard not to be when you go from the heights of winning to the lows of injury and sitting out during competitions. There is a limit on how excited you can be for your teammates. If they win the competition, everyone is ecstatic, and the coach is happy with everyone else’s performance, personal records, high scores and large margins of victory.

    But during all that, you sat on the sideline. You took down those very stats, counting the amazing tallies with small ticks on the sheet of paper in front of you.

    I hate that feeling.

    Winning is the most important thing to most athletes, and that sidelines the fun aspect of sports. However, fun is what I strive for, balanced with success. Sitting on the sidelines for me is not fun. My competitive nature wants to be out there with my team. I would honestly do every event out there on the track if my coaches let me.

    But that wouldn’t really help. I would be taking spots away from people who do those things better. I do what I can.

    So what do you do when you’re injured? Smile and put on a happy face for your team? Take stats? Or get back on the field to play your position?

    The answer is frustrating: You help your team however you can.

    Most of the time, that means not taking that extra shot or doing that last drill that the rest of your team is doing. The answer is sitting out this game and getting better so you can help your team when it counts. Aggravating an injury in a game that doesn’t matter — ruling you out of an important game — is perhaps more frustrating than the original injury.

    For me, this means sitting out of the Triton Invitational on Saturday, even though Mike Hazle — the top American javelin thrower last year — will be there. I am sitting out the opportunity to throw in front of the German national coach, and the female athlete he is accompanying, who’s throwing near the American record. I am going to be watching, filming, getting the officials their food and taking stats.

    This frustrates the flying F-bomb out of me. But watching these great athletes is going to be an immense thrill, and UCSD students shouldn’t miss a chance to see some of the best — several former Olympic athletes will be there, and several others likely to qualify for the London games in 2012.

    I’m skipping this to get to my version of the ALCS. I need to do well at the conference and national meets. This meet, as exciting as it will be, and as much as I am itching to go, would not help me get as well as I can before those competitions. If I am bleeding, I cannot perform my best, just as Schilling probably would have pitched better if he hadn’t been bleeding all over the mound.

    So, as annoying as it is, I will not be competing, but come to the Triton Invite this Saturday anyway to see some intense international competition. The Brazilian national team will be here, along with some German throwers, British Olympic hopefuls, American front-runners and top collegiates from around the country.

    The Triton Invitational will be at Spanos Track all day on Saturday, April 23.

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