Athletes learn to play through ailments

By Jeffery Armstrong

The average person may be grounded for weeks if he or she sprains an ankle, stubs a toe or fractures a hand. The average high school football player with those injuries hits the field anyway, pushing through the pain to play the game he loves.

Athletes playing the game of football with aches and pains is as commonplace as blocking and tackling.

The high school football season is at its midpoint and several players have toiled on the gridiron with various injuries, doing what's necessary to help their teams try to win games.

The laundry list of injuries that these athletes play with is amazing. It's nothing for these young football players to compete with such injuries as bruised shoulders, knees and hips.

"I'm currently playing with a bruised shin, a bruised elbow and a bruised hip," said Forest Park junior Anthony Harvey. "I've got to play through the pain. I feel like an iron man."

Harvey, who plays wide receiver, quarterback and cornerback, said on game days he will get taped by the school's trainer, who also doubles as the kicking coach. Harvey also said the rubdowns he may get from the trainer help him play through any pain.

"Once I get taped, I feel much better. I usually don't feel any pain while the game is going on," he said. "Once I get in the shower afterwards, I feel much better."

Harvey said his injuries pale in comparison to his team's plight on the field. Forest Park is currently 0-5.

"I'm more upset with the losses than with any injury that I have," he said. "If playing with pain helps get my teammates motivated and helps us win, then that's what I'll do."

Harvey's senior teammate Ronald Baker is the team's featured running back and he takes a pounding every week. Baker's currently playing with a broken thumb, a slight hip contusion and a strained groin. Baker broke his thumb during practice, but didn't realize it until much later. He said it would bother him a lot but he would tape it up and play. During the week he's okay n it's after the games when the pain really starts.

"I hurt like hell on Saturday mornings," Baker said, shaking his head. "The pain is strong. But, I know I've got to step up and do what I have to do to lead this team."

Baker said Forest Park players have a chance to get treatment for injuries every Saturday morning, starting at 10 a.m. He said players sit in ice for about 15 to 20 minutes, exercise and stretch for 15 minutes, sit in ice again, stretch again and then leave.

"I try to sit in a whirlpool on Saturdays, either at home or at Clayton State," Baker said. "My grandmother usually makes me sit in the whirlpool at home."

Jonesboro football players Rocky Lee and Darrell Robertson know about feeling pain on Saturdays. Lee, who broke his neck when he was younger, said he feels tense on the day after games.

"I am sore and stiff mostly every weekend," said Lee, Jonesboro's starting middle linebacker. "I don't drive anywhere on Saturdays."

Lee, a junior, said he plays with a sore knee, neck pain and pain from a fracture in his left hand. He is motivated to play despite the pain.

"I want to prove that I can play football and get a scholarship now," Lee said. "The pain won't stop me from reaching my goals."

Robertson, a senior defensive end, said he feels the pain Saturdays but sometimes he can feel it during the week in class.

"Sometimes, I feel it when I'm sitting in class for a long period of time," Robertson said. "You can get stiff sitting in those chairs."

Robertson said Jonesboro trainer Ron Bernard is basically his "best friend," helping him play through injuries ranging from a broken wrist to a partially torn MCL. Right now, Robertson is battling a bruised shoulder, a bruised chest cavity and knee soreness while trying to help the Cardinals win.

"I play through the pain because I have to rise to the next level and beyond to help my team," Robertson said. "I am motivated to be the best player I can be and I have to play through some pain."