As an athlete, you train relentlessly 365 days of the year for that moment when it all pays off. As an athlete, your goals consume your every waking thought. You are obsessed with your dreams. So, you can imagine that when something unexpected takes you out of the game, your world crumbles.
As a ballet dancer, I am no stranger to injuries. I have had too many to count, but each and every one has hit me like a truck. It’s not the pain that affects athletes the most– it’s the consequences of the pain. After dancing on my toes for nine years, I can tell you that a little pain doesn’t bother me. Any athlete that truly loves what they do will tell you that if they could train through their injury they would.
From July before my sophomore year to the end of September, I danced on a stress fracture. Of course, at the time I didn’t know I had a stress fracture– I just thought it was tendinitis. I love ballet more than I can put into words, so my pain level has to be pretty extreme for me to willingly sit out of a class and watch without a doctor forcing me to do so. When I found out I had a stress fracture, I was actually just going to the doctor for a different minor injury check-up that had pretty much healed, when he noticed how swollen my foot was and decided to do an ultrasound and found a stress fracture. The thing is, my foot hurt, but it didn’t hurt nearly as much as my heart hurt sitting in class every single day and watching other people do what I love most.
There’s another injury that almost any athlete can relate to, and that’s the sudden one that happens in under a second. For me, it happened when I was sixteen. I came down from a jump and my ankle snapped. As you can imagine, the physical pain was overwhelming. However, what I remember most about that day is sitting out of class, waiting for my mom to come take me to the ER. In that 20-minute time span, I completely fell apart thinking about how many months a broken ankle would take me out of dance– how many summer intensive auditions I’d miss– how far I’d fall behind from my peers. That’s what truly wrecks an athlete, not the pain.
If you’re an athlete that’s currently out of the game, I know your pain. Perhaps I don’t know your actual literal pain, as I haven’t actually experienced every sports injury known to man, but I know your emotional pain. I feel for you. Non-athletes will tell you to “cheer up” and to “appreciate your time off,” but you know that you could never appreciate time away from your passion.
You don’t feel like yourself without your sport, and watching practices, classes, and rehearsals seems to make it hurt even more. Every day you spend out of training seems like a day wasted. But don’t lose hope. Don’t think of it that way because in reality, every day you spend out of training means that you’re one day closer to getting back in the game.