My college basketball career started on November 6th, 2018 and my college career was also more or less over on that same night. At the end of the game, I went in for a steal and when I pulled back I completely lost feeling in my left arm. This feeling was one that I would unfortunately become accustomed to over the course of the next month. I was unwilling to fully accept my situation causing me to lie time and time again to my coaches, trainers, and doctors so that I would not have to miss any practices or games. This led to problems with not only my shoulder, but my actions would ultimately hurt the team as well. That was the hardest thing for me to grasp when I was going through this because I believed I was being selfless for trying to fight through this injury, but in reality, I was hurting my team’s chances of winning since I could not preform to the best of my abilities. With my stubborn refusal to tell the truth of how I really felt, I continued to get my arm into awkward positions and would end up with the same limp arm that had become so familiar. As a result, I would have to leave practice and, eventually, it led to having to wear a shoulder brace that gave me virtually no range of motion. My tipping point came on December 10th when I showed up to practice and was unable to lift my arm above my shoulder. I decided that it was finally time for me to admit the full extent of what I was going through and go to get it checked out. The next week after this turned out to be one of the hardest I have ever had to endure in my life.
As many athletes know, when there is something wrong with your body you have a feeling of the severity of it. Although I knew in my head that the results were not going to be what I wanted, I was in no way prepared to finally hear the news of my MRI. I found out on December 14th that my season was over, and I would need surgery to repair a torn labrum in my left shoulder. Basketball has always been my sense of identity so I feared what my life would be like without it for the period of time during recovery. I broke down the moment I heard the news and I immediately called my parents, but nothing I seemed to do could calm me down. This was, thankfully, some of the worst news I have ever heard in my life because I had never had a serious injury before. However, with it being the first intense injury I have had to endure, I was in no way prepared for the grueling months of the physical, but more importantly the mental rehabilitation it was going to require.
Leading up to surgery, I still practiced and lifted with the tear, because not being able to do what I loved for the upcoming months was still unfathomable. On December 27th I received a successful labrum repair surgery. The surgery was performed in South Bend from a team doctor, but I was fortunate enough that I was able to spend the immediate days of recovery in the comfort in my own home. At the time, I was still trying to fully grasp the news that was given to me weeks prior and that I was going to actually have to give up basketball for the time being. Surgery is what made my situation real. These days were difficult, but the pain of the shoulder did not nearly amount to the pain that I felt with not being able to do what I loved. Since the day that I was born, basketball has been my escape from reality. The gym was where I would end up no matter what emotion I was feeling. Therefore, my overwhelming amount of emotions became difficult to manage because I was unable to go to the gym. Always being reliant on basketball, finding another coping method was also a struggle.
I returned back on campus a week after surgery to be back with my team. While it was nice to be surrounded by their support and positivity, it was also challenging to not bring upon any negativity. There were days where I would just sit in my room alone and not want to surround myself with anyone. Many athletes have to deal with recovery alone, but luckily for me, I had our captain and leader of the team by my side. He unfortunately suffered a tear to his ACL the day after I received news of my MRI. Having him around allowed me to have someone to talk to about how I was truly feeling without making others on the team unfocused. When I was doing physical therapy while the team was practicing, we helped keep each other focused as well as giving each other company. It would’ve been a completely different story had I not had him there to cope along with me.
Overall, our season was what everyone referred to as our “growth year.” The team had suffered many challenges with losing players to injuries as well as young players having to fill in big shoes quickly. Just like any team, there was a frustration that arose. It was especially difficult to have to sit there and watch my team deal with these moments without my help. Though I could support them mentally and emotionally, I still felt as though I was failing them because I could not be out on the court to help them succeed. As the season went on, it evolved my leadership. Typically, I had been used to being a leader any time I stepped foot on the court, but this taught me how to be a leader in a different aspect.
In regards to my physical recovery, I never realized the amount of movement the shoulder truly does. Being someone who has always been able to perform at the highest level, having to rehabilitate a shoulder that I couldn’t even raise above my shoulder has been exceptionally tough. I felt as though all my energy and efforts over the years to get my arm strength to where it was had completely gone to waste. In fact, it made me feel as though I was now behind all my competitors. Although, I have still been able to continue working out other parts of the body, so I have realized that I am not at that much of a disadvantage.
In hindsight, my injury has many silver linings. Though it has been trying, my injury has taught me valuable lessons than I could not have ever imagined. While I am still physically recovering from it, I have had an immense amount of mental growth and strength from it giving me a mental toughness I had not previously had. Not only that, but being on the bench allowed me to see a game in a different light. Being away from something that I loved my whole life has only made my passion grow so much stronger. I realized how truly blessed that I am to be where I am and I will never take another minute of it for granted. Often times athletes can be lazy in practice or even during games, which I was sometimes guilty of, but watching from afar has shown me that it is not worth it. Upon my return, I will not waste a moment of time not performing to the highest of my ability because one day the ball will stop bouncing. This aspect proved to me that I will not want to regret a time that I was able to perform at all times but instead I didn’t. The injury has also taught me to become more thankful for the little things in life, such as being able to hang up a towel on a hook. Sometimes we take advantage of the simple things in life. Though the difficultly of this has been immeasurable, I have obtained an outlook on life that I did not have 5 months ago. Ultimately, through the seemingly impossible last couple of months, I have developed positivity, patience, and persistence.