The Pressure of Sports Injuries


Abby Vasak

Playing alongside her teammates, Abby pushed through her injury in order to lead the team to victory.

No one wants to be the reason that their team loses an important game, but the lines between taking care of yourself and putting the team first start to blur, especially when it comes to injuries. With less visible injuries especially, there are times where it feels like you’re being told to push through it for the good of the team, even if it’s not what’s best for yourself. 

Mid-September, during a game against Loudoun County High School, I took a hard hit to my arm off a block, and was immediately in pain. Despite my arm hurting a lot, I ignored it for the rest of the game, and continued to play, because that was what the team needed, and I didn’t want to be the reason that our team lost. However, unlike my more usual pains that go away by the next day, this one didn’t. After a few more weeks of playing on it, I finally decided to go see an orthopedist. 

I found out that I sprained a ligament in my elbow, though it was very minor. With other injuries that I’ve had, there were very strict guidelines on how long to sit, how to prevent it from getting worse, etc. With this injury, however, the doctor said that it was mostly up to me when I decided to play, and how much I decided to do. Immediately, I was hit with a sense of both guilt and stress over the decision. 

During the week I got comments from both my coach and my teammates about how they needed me to play in a big game we had next week, and it really started to weigh on me. I understand that their intention wasn’t to try and force me to play, but it just built up more and more guilt and pressure over possibly deciding not to. Obviously, I didn’t want to let anyone down, and I really didn’t want us to lose such an important game, and that stress grew to the point where I was getting nervous even thinking about volleyball. 

A lot of factors play into the stress around injuries, depending on what type of injuries there are. One big factor is the fact that the high school season is so short, and almost every game matters for playoffs, minus out of district games. Because games are two to three times a week though, even being out for two weeks means missing a lot of games. Especially in sports with smaller teams, it’s hard to feel justified being out for less serious injuries when it causes the whole team to have to adapt and possibly lose an important game. 

All of that doubles when it comes closer to playoffs, and losing means that your team is done for the season. While some injuries are clear that you either shouldn’t, or clearly can’t play at all, it makes those less serious, less visible injuries feel that much more frustrating, and adds to the internal conflict of whether or not to risk playing and making the injury worse, or not playing and possibly being a reason that the season is over. 

In most cases, the “team over individual” mentality makes sense, and should be encouraged, but when it comes to injuries, it shouldn’t really apply. It’s not being selfish to sit out because you could worsen or prolong an injury, but the thought of letting the team down, of being the reason that the team loses just never goes away. It gets hard to figure out what you really want, compared to what the team wants, or what you’re expected to do.