The journey from high school to college can be a difficult one. Add in athletics to the mix and it feels like being thrown into a hungry pack of wolves who all want to prey on you. Add pre-existing injuries to college athletics and it feels like running up a mountain to get away from the wolves.
It feels this way because it is a fight you just won’t win.
Just ask Jon Mitchell, head athletic trainer at Appalachian State.
“Durability is a challenge overall right now. Kids are involved in everything from a young age. By the time they get to college, they are put in the ringer,” Mitchell said in an interview.
According to Mitchell, the training staff at Appalachian are trying to figure out things to help prevent more injuries from occurring.
Unfortunately, this does not help with previous issues sustained during an athlete’s high school years.
Watauga High School’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, Marshall Thomas says just how much an injury effects an athlete after college can partially be up to them.
“If the athlete was not proactive in their rehabilitation process, there could definitely be physical and mental limitations,” Thomas said in an email interview.
Thomas mentions that once an injury is sustained by a high school athlete, they must be diligent about doing their rehab every day until they are healed, otherwise it could linger into college.
Two injures the Watauga trainer sees frequently that usually present problems later on are “rolled ankles” and “back pain”.
According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, surgery may be required if repeated sprains to an ankle is sustained, making the ankle “unstable”.
This surgery is performed on many athletes, especially soccer players who have suffered repeated sprains throughout their careers.
Although women’s soccer player and former Watauga High School star Tristin Derrick has not had ankle surgery, she does believe that athletics will have an effect on her health after college.
“I think college sports can definitely take a toll on your body as you age. There are so many different injures that can happen to collegiate athletes,” Derrick said.
Derrick also mentioned how important it was to listen to your body to figure out when it is time to call it quits on your sport.
Since there is not a rule book determining when an athlete needs to stop playing, oftentimes it is a group decision between the player, athletic trainer, and team doctor.
It is certainly not an easy choice to make. Giving up something that has most likely been a huge part of the athlete’s life is difficult.
Mitchell encourages athletes faced with the decision to think about the future, stating simply that he knows what it’s like to play with his son in the yard and not be plagued with pain.
In the meantime, both the high school athletic trainer and the college athletic trainer are working to prevent new injuries from forming and nursing current injures.
John Mitchell said it best; “You can’t totally eliminate that risk, even with protocol to decrease issues.”