By Jeffery Armstrong

When I was much younger, I used to think that pro athletes would suffer from dubious injuries to take a break from playing.

I don't think like that any more.

As I've traveled to the local high schools and interviewed players and coaches at football practices, seen a few athletes on the sidelines with injuries and I realize how much pain comes with sports. A lot of these sports, especially football, are dangerous and kids as well as adults get hurt all the time.

One player told me he's already played with turf toe this season and that made me reminisce. I remember I was a little disappointed with Deion Sanders years ago because he was out of his football team's lineup with turf toe. I was like, how can a toe injury stop him from playing?

I used to think that pro athletes were either lazy or really soft most of the time.

That all changed when I started playing pickup basketball games on a regular basis when I lived in Houston. The injuries i picked up playing so much ball were no joke.

I used to play lunchtime basketball games at the YMCA that was down the street from my job. I would usually play twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, and I did it for four-and-a-half years straight. It was fun and good exercise, I made good friends and I was able to relieve tension from work. But I also had my share of injuries. I can't tell you how many jammed fingers, shin injuries and foot and toe injuries i had over the years. The worse injury I had was an ankle sprain n whew! n I still get chills thinking about how much pain I was in. That really hurt.

To make matters worse, I didn't elevate my ankle when I went back to work and it swelled to the size of a lemon and it hurt to walk. I remember limping to Eckerd's for some ankle treatments and limping home from the parking lot at my complex because others were parked in my parking area.

I was on the injured reserve list for about two solid months with my bum ankle, but I would still go to the YMCA and watch the guys play. As I sat around, I thought about what pro athletes, or athletes in general, must go through. I thought about playing 82 pro basketball games, 41 on the road, and how many injuries those guys could possibly get. If I was hurt playing just one or two days a week, imagine what pros go through with 10 games in 11 nights or something like that. At least in my situation, I had the choice to play or not n it wasn't my job. Pro athletes are paid to deal with the possibility of injury.

Going through my ankle sprain made me realize that no male or female athlete plays without some sort of pain, especially those that play contact team sports.

My injuries gave me a whole new perspective about athletes. I laugh no more when I hear of an athlete sidelined by turf toe, a jammed finger, a hip pointer or a shin injury. Believe me when I tell you, those things hurt.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the News Daily and Daily Herald and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com.