By Jay Winkler
In the wake of the horrific injury sustained by Louisville’s Kevin Ware during the Elite Eight, the national conversation on college sports injuries has been reignited.
Ware’s injury has made the inherent risks of college athletics front-page news. That injury, along with the continued discussions about the long-term effects of concussions, have highlighted the dangers of playing college sports.
At Albion, this discussion is happening on a much smaller scale. Division III athletics are very different from Division I. Albion cannot offer athletic scholarships, and on the surface it may seem that schools like ours simply do not have the resources to adequately care for severely-injured athletes.
That is not the case. Albion provides full-service rehabilitative care to all injured athletes, as well as academic support.
“We do everything from prevention of injuries to the initial evaluation, treatment, rehabilitation and eventual return to play,” said Sara Koski, head athletic trainer and clinical instructor.
Koski has been on the sidelines of football games for eight years and has seen her fair share of injuries. When asked about Ware’s injury, she said that the injury itself is not always what trainers are most worried about.
“Certainly in the case of an open leg fracture like Kevin Ware, shock is the No. 1 thing you are concerned about,” Koski said. “Not only for the athlete that’s injured, but for the people around.”
Koski is blunt about her reasoning.
“What’s more severe,” Koski asked. “Them going unconscious and stopping breathing, gross loss of blood — those are the bigger concerns rather than the bone. The bone’s going to get fixed.”
After the immediate response to the injury, athletes are entered into a full physical therapy program until they can return to the field of play.
“Every single day at practice the athletic training program had me doing workouts that coincided with the physical therapy I was doing at the University of Michigan,” said Chris Hutton, Metamora senior. “I’d go to practice and while everyone else was practicing I’d be on the side doing stretching, slight running, all the kinesiology fun stuff.”
What many are concerned about is the academic cost of sports injuries, but student-athletes do not share those concerns. Hutton, a member of the Albion College men’s basketball team, was able to manage those costs through better organization.
“I just had to be able to manage my time a lot better,” Hutton said.
Koski was quick to point out the support that the school provides for student athletes.
“The Learning Support Center does a really nice job working with our student athletes to help communicate with professors,” Koski said. “Get extra time to take exams, maybe give them an extension to finish papers or projects. Especially if they’re out of school for any length of time.”
Other than academic support, student-athletes rely on their teammates during the tough recovery process.
“We all make fun of each other, but they’re really supportive of me,” said TJ Lurie, Huntington Woods sophomore. “They’ve always had my back.”
Both Koski and the players are clear on their advice to athletes trying to weigh the risk of injury with the desire to play Division III athletics.
“Unless its something life-threatening or something that’s going to affect you later in life, just go for it,” Lurie said. “Try and tough it out, do the best you can. You don’t get the opportunity to play college athletics too often.”
While Koski admits that there is a risk, she believes that for most sports the risk is minimal, and worth the potential rewards.
“We’re all in this business because it makes people better,” Koski said. “It makes people stronger. It’s proven that people are more successful in life if they are able to balance athletics and academics in college. The real world is a little easier a transition for them.”
Photo courtesy of Albion College Flickr