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In sports, injuries all around us

T

he Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose went through successful knee surgery this week, his third in three seasons. Rose missed a good bit of the last two NBA seasons because of similar issues with his knees, but things were going well this season until this setback.

His prior two surgeries were both season-ending, but in this case the repair was considered minor and he could be back in six weeks to finish out the season. I believe in the old saying that goes, "surgery is minor when it's done on someone else," but the team physician concurred that in fact this should be a much quicker recovery period than previous procedures.

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Many people question Rose's decision to get back on the court as soon as possible, potentially trading long term health for short-term rewards. It's a decision that any athlete has to face when they suffer a more serious injury.

At the professional level, the pressures are even greater; in addition to the opportunity to make playoff runs and potentially win a league championship that you can expect to see at any level of competitive sports, the financial pressures can be daunting. The athlete's salary and the additional playoff bonuses and endorsement deals not just for him but for all of his teammates and coaching staff can seem an overwhelming burden to a young athlete making a decision between a longer rest period or getting back in to the battle.

That doesn't even take into consideration an athlete's own desire to compete. Remember in 2004 when Terrell Owens came back in near record time after suffering what should have been a season-ending injury? TO had a fractured fibula and a severely sprained ankle on a horse-collar tackle in late December.

He told the media at a press conference that he would be back if the Eagles made it to the Super Bowl and he proved to be a man of his word. Despite the Eagles losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, TO not only played in the game, he started and made 9 receptions for 122 yards.

You can certainly understand the financial pressures one could feel given the decision to continue healing or getting back to action, although that's not exclusive to the professional athlete these days.

The college game in many sports leads to a potential professional career for some young athletes. A missed opportunity to play on national television or in front of professional scouts because of a nagging injury could make a huge difference in the direction of their professional life. The millions of dollars of endorsement deals that are at stake for the high profile universities place added heat on the coaches and the athletic training staff to not only keep their athletes injury free, but when one does happen, to get their star player back in the game.

The further down the food chain you go through club, high school, travel and recreational sports levels, the less prevalent the financial pressures and more clear the decisions become when considering the same options for the young athlete. Without the financial pressures, would you decide to push or even allow your kid to get back to action before the doctor's advice? Would you make the same decision if there was money involved?

Injuries are part of the game. When we register our kids for a sport or join a team ourselves in an adult league, we do so knowing the potential for injury. The sheer will of the competitors battling in the field of play obviously creates more opportunity for injury than if we didn't participate. We know it and we accept it. It's not that injuries are even inevitable for all athletes because we've all played with or seen the athlete that seems to never suffer an injury, and yet others playing the same game tend to find themselves in the training room more often than not.

The key decision then is when to allow a young athlete to return to play. There are certainly some kids that will not rush back to action until they are good and ready, but most players are eager to get back to action and will do and say anything to convince us to let them do just that. It's a tough call but one that you need to stay firm and make the best decision for your young player.

German figure skater Katarina Witt once said, "When you're young, you don't think very far ahead. You just think in terms of the next day, the next week, the next competition. You don't think about injuries that could threaten your long-term health."

That's where we come in as parents.

Robert Brown is the Times' rec sports writer. His column appears every Sunday. Reach him at 410-857-7885 or robert.brown@carrollcountytimes.com.

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