How injuries affect the boys varsity soccer team
Sitting on the sidelines, junior Dalio Mercado watches his teammates hustle to their positions on the field. The whistle is blown and the ball is kicked off. Goals are scored and substitutions are made, yet Mercado remains unable to play. He sits alongside his teammates, cheering for the rest of the team while they compete. As the clock ticks, he observes the game from a new perspective: the bench.
Mercado cannot play soccer after multiple injuries and is restrained to the sidelines for the remainder of the season. Throughout the season and during the offseason, many of the boys varsity soccer players are forced to take a break from their sport due to various injuries, impacting different aspects of the team. According to usatoday.com, approximately 1.35 million children experienced a sports-relate
d injury “severe enough to send them to a hospital emergency department.” This high number has led to a deeper focus on injury prevention within the last few years, with more of a prioritization on warming up, stretching and allowing time for players to rest. Despite these measures, injuries continue to persist, as seen by Mercado’s injury.
“I started playing soccer when I was 6 years old because my grandpa and dad were both professional soccer players and I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” Mercado said. “[but] I was injured on April 17, 2016, by reaching out for a ball trying to score while an opponent hit my knee and bent it the opposite direction.”
This incident led to Mercado injuring his ACL, MCL and VMO muscles, preventing him from playing for what the doctor initially thought would be close to 10 months. He began physical therapy immediately following his surgery, at first needing to go three days a week, now twice a week. Though Mercado has recovered significantly since the initial injury, he remains unable to play for the rest of the season. Despite these setbacks, he has been able to remain involved with the team.
“Injured players always try to stay involved after their injury,” senior Brady Dow said. “[Mercado] has remained a part of our team by coming to the practices and all of the games.”
Though Dow himself has been injured with a broken back, he was injured while off the field. During his sophomore year, Dow was unable to play following breaking his back. While his injury was not soccer-related, Dow said he stretches and warms up before games in attempt to continue to be injury-free. Though he takes preventative steps, he said he realizes injuries happen often.
Unlike Dow, junior Jarod Vitha has had the ability to understand sports-injuries more directly. Vitha tore his ACL in eighth grade and was unable to play for five months, which he said had an effect on the positions of his teammates. Another player needed to learn his position, changing the dynamics of the team, while he was forced to sit on the bench and just watch the game.
“I learned that wanting to be able to do something but not being able to do it is the worst thing,” Vitha said.
Vitha says along with learning to cope with his inability to play, he was able to better understand the importance of putting effort into recovery. He said his injury “was just unlucky,” but the process of healing was something he was somewhat able to control.
“The only results you get out of recovery are based on what you put in,” Vitha said.
Though he is now recovered, Vitha said he now understands the frustrations many players face when unable to play. This experience has given him a better understanding of how i
njured players have an impact on their teams, whether by position changes, or attitudes of the players.
“Injures can really demoralize a team, especially when a key player goes out,” Dow said. “Short term, it may cost the team a few games, and long term, it may cost us the season in the playoffs.”
The team is left to deal with more than just the visible issues created. They are left to decide what steps will be taken in order to ensure the future safety of the players. Though Mercado has experienced a soccer-related injury, he said he does not plan on making any major changes.
“I probably won’t [change anything],” Mercado said. “I will for sure warm up better now that I’m injured but I don’t think you can really prevent an injury like this.”
Dow and Vitha also acknowledged the fact that often times injuries are unavoidable and the most that players can do is stretch or warm up. Dow said problems are not always preventable even if the team does all they can to avoid injuries on the field. Though Mercado’s injury has not greatly altered his physical process of prevention, his outlooks on the issue have changed.
“With this being my first injury, my mindset kind of changed,” Mercado said. “I would always think that this would never happen to me and stuff like that but it could happen to anyone, so play every game like it’s your last.”
After facing injuries themselves or seeing the impacts of injuries on teammates, Mercado said he realizes that it boils down to sheer luck, and even if they do all they can, being hurt is at times, unavoidable. Mercado said he has learned that injuries are very applicable to the team even if they believe that they are unlikely, and they are forced to cope until full recovery unless they are able to speed up the process.
“I’m ahead of schedule,” Mercado said. “My goal is to be ready by the end of December for the Disney soccer college showcase my team is participating in in Florida. But I’ll follow my doctor’s instructions on when he thinks I’m ready.”
Though he is out for the varsity season, Mercado has made a quicker recovery than expected and said he has been able to continue to support and motivate his teammates before his return. Throughout the process of recovery, he said he has learned that injuries can impact everyone and that because of this, everyone should “play every game like it’s their last.”
“Never give up and keep pushing toward that goal you want to achieve,” Vitha said.“The harder you work, the more you get out of it.”