By: Olivia Wile
As I have been competitively swimming for the last nine years, it is without surprise that I have experienced a lot of pain; both good and bad.
This is to be expected with any athlete, as we spend hours on hours conditioning, lifting, and practicing our skills. Although soreness is pretty much accustomed, it becomes a problem when pain goes beyond just muscle aches and fatigue.
Personally, I have been no stranger to injuries. During the eighth grade, I was diagnosed with Patellofemoral Syndrome. While during my junior year of high school I battled my first back injury. Fortunately, both of these injuries only took about six to eight weeks of rest and rehab to overcome. I cannot say the same now.
Last year, about four months into my freshman swim season, I reinjured my back. It turned out to be the same diagnosis from two years prior. Long story short, I have a tethered spinal cord, a rare genetic condition, and suffer from S.I. Joint Dysfunction.
With the help of prednisone, an oral steroid, cortisone shots, and limited physical therapy, I tried to manage my way through the season. After it was over, I stopped swimming in February, and now, in October, am still not 100%.
While spending my fair share of time in the athletic training room in Croy, I am around when plenty of other athletes go through rehab as well. Whether their injuries are long term or short term, the majority seems to have a similar goal in common: recovery.
When I asked Fiona Hanks, our head athletic trainer at UF, how college athletes typically respond to such adversity, I was surprised to learn that not everyone is the same.
“A lot of people I come into contact with are on scholarship. It tells the average person two things: one, they’re good at their sport, and two they are getting paid to participate,” Hanks said. “So yes, you do find that most athletes that are on our teams want to work very hard to get back, don’t like being injured, and will do what they physically can to get better.”
When it comes to recovery, however, Hanks says that the circumstances among athletes vary.
“Some people, like in your case, they want to do it, but their bodies can’t,” Hanks said.
Although injuries can be extremely discouraging, I do believe they can play a substantial role in improving both mental and physical strength. It was not until I hurt my back for the first time that I realized how much I loved swimming and wanted to continue in college.
In battling my injury, I have developed both thicker skin, and a deeper appreciation for swimming. As I am still recovering today, I truly appreciate every chance I get to spend near, or in the water. Although my injury will likely be one I struggle with the rest of my life, it is not one I will ever give into.