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Athletes and Injuries: Pain and Perseverance

Four knee surgeries later, including a torn ACL and a torn meniscus, wrist sprains and other injuries, Derrick Rose is currently in his eleventh season in the NBA as a point guard for the Detroit Pistons.

At his best, Rose went No. 1 in the 2008 NBA Draft and was named Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Chicago Bulls. Then, in 2011, he received the top league award, being named the NBA MVP.

Plagued with injuries, Rose fought to return to the game. All of this emotion became an evident outpouring on October 31, 2018. In a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, Rose lit up the scoreboard with “an explosive” 50-point performance.

Rose displays his emotion after his 50-point performance Oct. 31, 2018. Online Photo.

After the game, Rose broke down in tears.

“I did this for the franchise, the organization, the fans, everybody,” Rose said.

Many athletes congratulated Rose and offered encouragement.

Fellow NBA star—now retired—Dwyane Wade said, “Tonight was an example of never giving up on yourself and when others believe in you amazing things can happen.”

J.R. Smith said, “I’m so proud of you bro! No one knows your struggle, what you went through day in and day out.”

Athletes of many ages and at every level suffer a range of injuries. Often, they push through unbearable pain for “the love of the game.”

Junior basketball player Katie Mayo and senior baseball player Hayden Barber have both experienced difficult injuries throughout their college careers, but they continue to fight and inspire.

Mayo, while in college, went through ligament reconstruction in her ankle. She strained her Achilles multiple times in high school and suffered from chronic exertional compartment syndrome, which led to undergoing a fasciotomy on both calves in high school.

Mayo said her toughest injury was the ankle surgery in college, which included six months of recovery. After going through the process, Mayo said she will most likely experience pain for the rest of her life, but the pain is worth it.

“Well, I will definitely struggle with chronic pain for the majority of my life,” Mayo said. “I will most likely have arthritis at some point in my life as well. The pain from these injuries won’t go away any time soon but also, I’m glad that I got to experience the injuries and the recovery, because I feel like it just made me appreciate the game that much more.”

Barber, while pitching for Oklahoma Christian University this past season, tore his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), which resulted in Tommy John surgery, an elbow reconstruction and an ulnar nerve transposition this January. The recovery process for these injuries is lengthy, with a timetable of 13-14 months. Barber said the recovery has been both physically and mentally exhausting.

Barber said although the process will be tough, it is something he worked for his entire life.

“The goal was always to play college baseball, so why wouldn’t I continue working for that opportunity,” Barber said. “I have invested so much time in this game, and I don’t intend on that changing. This is my love and passion, and I don’t feel like I’m done until the game tells me I am.”

During these 13 months of recovery, Barber said the most important thing for him has been to stay positive and not focus on the negative for a lengthy amount of time.

“The night it happened, I cried harder than I ever have, but I gave myself 24 hours to be upset, and I had to move on,” Barber said. “When it comes to recovery, I try to approach each day as a new challenge and opportunity. It’s frustrating not playing this season, but I’ve had amazing support from my family, coaches, teammates and trainers during the process making it easier.”

Barber said his advice to anyone suffering from what seems like unspeakable, unbearable injuries is to take time to be upset, but not too much time, and then be motivated to work hard to return to the game.

“Take a deep breath and give yourself a little time to be upset and move on,” Barber said. “Find a great support group, work hard and trust the process. Use it as an opportunity to grow and self-reflect. Let it motivate you and drive you to get back in the game.”

While Barber is right in the middle of his recovery, Mayo made it through and this past week scored her 1,000th career point. After going through six months of tough therapy, Mayo said her advice to everyone may seem simple but is always important to remember.

Mayo currently starts for Oklahoma Christian this season and continues to build on her current 1,000 career points, despite injuries. Photo by Steven Christy.

“Don’t give up,” Mayo said. “I know it’s hard right now and that it hurts, but it’ll all be worth it in the end if you continue to push yourself.”

Both Mayo and Barber did not shy away from expressing how mentally and physically difficult injuries are. Both have gone through pain, but they have continued to persevere. Why? For the love of the game.

“I’ve been doing this my entire life, and the game has always been there for me,” Barber said. “Even in my worst moments, the game of baseball is always something I could turn to. I miss playing more than I ever thought I would, and I can’t wait to get back on the field.”


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