Playing through injury hurts playersPlayers toughing out an injury can potentially hurt their team
Published 4/5/2012Comments (0)
One of the worst feelings sports fans can experience is watching a game while their favorite player sits out with an injury.
However, when athletes say they have chosen to play through an injury, fans rejoice and honor those players for their valiant efforts. It says a lot about a player’s character and love for the game.
How many times have fans said that cliché?
Players even say it.
When Kobe Bryant played through a broken nose and a concussion about a month ago, he said on NBA.com, “The message that it carries with it is that ‘I’m not going to back down,’ that type of attitude.”
Fans should groan when they hear something like this rather than uttering an old cliché condoning such behavior.
Bryant is not the only athlete to play miraculously through injuries.
Remember Curt Schilling’s “Bloody Sock” game during the sixth game of the 2004 American League Championship Series?
Remember when Michael Jordan played with the flu during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals? Superhuman performances like these entertain us all and open our eyes to players’ will to win.
However, athletes have reeled off too many impressive performances under these physically demanding circumstances. Consequently, if a player has anything short of a broken leg, fans expect to see that player in the game.
Also, the term superstar has become associated with players who can bypass physical pain and succeed. Schilling and Jordan were prominent players in their time. Bryant currently is regarded as a superstar in the NBA.
Garnering that kind of spotlight, though, can encourage players to stretch their physical limits.
They can even use their superstar status as leverage to get playing time. If Bryant tells Coach Brown that he can play through an injury, will Brown refuse to play his superstar? Probably not. In fact, we usually never find out if the backup player could perform effectively while the superstar rests.
The key lies in the identity of the player. Bryant, Schilling and Jordan all played miraculously well because they individually had high tolerances for their respective injuries. Fans noticed because of the players’ superstar statuses.
Would fans notice that a minor league left fielder who just got called up was playing with a sprained wrist on his glove hand?
Sports naturally pose a threat to athletes’ bodies. During the course of a season, most players on any roster will suffer some kind of injury. Nobody will make a big deal about one of those injured players participating in a game unless that player is well-known or performs unusually well.
One might say attention is not warranted unless a player performs extremely well. Nobody wants to hear about an injured player who played badly.
On the other hand, the performances of Bryant, Schilling, Jordan, and other superstars who have played injured would have been expected in games in which they were not hurt. In other words, they just turned in another day at the office. They just did not take a sick day.
If they had played poorly, fans would have blamed the bad performance on the injury. The player remains a superstar. An amazing performance simply adds to that player’s superstar résumé and ego.
Consider LeBron James, a superstar whose performance has declined with a recent injury. James dislocated his finger in a game last week against the Indiana Pacers, according to ESPN. He also has played through elbow and neck soreness that dates back to a March 20 game against the Phoenix Suns, ESPN reported.
Normally, he averages 26.7 points per game. With his various injuries, he has recorded only 18.4 points per game. According to ESPN, he said the dislocated finger has impacted his dribbling and rebounding.
The Heat have struggled lately as well.
Recent blowout losses to the Thunder, Pacers and Celtics have caused concern. Why does LeBron choose to play rather than rest? Teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh could certainly pick up the slack.
“I just don’t like letting my teammates down honestly,” James told USA Today. “Sometimes, I know it’s best for the team for me to sit. Sometimes, I know I would like to play.”
Teams always like to win, not just sometimes. Fans like to see their team win. They would probably prefer a healthy player who is ready for the playoffs instead of an injured one hobbling around because he wants to hold up his reputation.
Sometimes, these players need rest.
Professional seasons are long and strenuous. While fans love to see sensational performances like those of Bryant, Schilling and Jordan, those fans need to also realize the rarity of those stories.
They need to understand that playing with an injury hurts the future of both the player and the team.