Are We Creating Monsters?

Posted: September 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

Some horrible news over the past few weeks really made me stop and think…

For those of you who have not been following, it was these two stories that honest- to- god made me question everything I know.

Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy, taking a line drive off his head can be found here.

Tulane football player Devon Walker, fracturing his spine during a game can be found here.

I guess I need to tell you my story so you can see where I am coming from…

For as long as I can remember, sports has been something that literally controlled my life. Nobody forced me to play, and I know my parents would have been just as happy if I decided to join the debate team, computer club, or the band (I actually was in the band from 4th-12th grade, but that’s neither here nor there).

In kindergarten, I was with my mother at the grocery store and being, well, in kindergarten, I decided that it was a good idea to casually take a handful of gummy worms out of the candy dispensers, bypass the weigh machine, and stick the candy directly into my mouth.

Yes, this is stealing. (I was 6, let me live)

Well, my mother saw this and certainly was not happy. I obviously needed to be punished. So, how do you punish a 6-year-old so he really, really gets the point?

Take away his toys? Nope.

Take away television? Negative.

No dessert? Not enough.

Not letting him go to recreation soccer practice? Damn, mothers always know how to make a point.

This crushed me. As a 6-year-old, soccer practice was my life. It was like telling Snookie she can’t go to Bamboo.

The point here is that I really, really love sports.

…….

In high school during my senior year, I went to throw a cut block on a defensive lineman. He tried to hop over me, but didn’t jump high enough. His knee caught my low back pretty good. I thought it was bruised, so I kept playing. This went on for another two quarters until I collapsed on the field because I simply couldn’t run anymore.

The team doctor took me back to the locker room and we found blood in my urine.

From there, I was sent to the hospital and stayed overnight. They found that I had bruised my kidney and fractured the L4 and L5 Transverse Process vertebrae.

I was told that I would need to be in a back brace for 6 weeks in order to let the injury heal.

I was crushed. 6 weeks in a high school football season is over half the year.

During my 6 weeks away from the field, my coach decided to put me up in the coaches booth with head phones so I could help call both the offense and defense. Staying involved with the team was something I NEEDED.

After 6 weeks of inactivity and in a brace, I removed the brace and without any Physical Therapy (the doctor said I didn’t need it, and amazingly I believed him) I returned to the field after 1 day of practice.

This was really dumb and I payed for it a bunch of years later with surgery.

But you know what?

I wouldn’t change any of it. 

The fact that I was able to go back on the field and play again was worth it, in my opinion. Just that one last chance to get out there  is something you never, ever get back.

The point: I really, really love sports.

…….

Since that time I went on to play college baseball. Ironically, my career ended there with a torn labrum on a hook slide into home plate during the 2nd week of my junior season.

…….

I tell these stories because I think before I go on, everyone must understand where I have come from. I come from a place in which I believe in building tough SOB’s with a no-nonsense attitude toward sports and training. Neither is/was something I did to hang out with friends, or build a social group. To me, it was ALWAYS serious business. Luckily, for most of my career, school came a bit easier for me so I in turn, spent 98% of my time focused on sports. Simply put, sports was never what I did, it was who I was. Quite frankly, it’s who I still am.

So that brings us back to the present.

I am now a chiropractor with a fascination in rehab and human performance. One who is always reading the research, going to seminars, and always looking for that ‘edge’. That ‘edge’ is generally anything that pushes human performance to another level.

Essentially, we all want to know (myself included) how to make our athletes bigger, faster, and stronger all while trying to keep them healthy.

But the question is when is enough, enough? When have we taken it too far?  What needs to happen for us to make drastic changes?

Think about the situation with Brandon McCarthy. Yes, I understand this was more of a freak injury. A line drive directly back at the pitcher’s head is not common. But, at some point it comes back to simple physics. The pitchers are continually throwing harder, the batters are getting stronger and subsequently hitting the ball harder. The pitcher’s mound has not moved back at all. So, what’s left is simply less reaction time and a higher velocity of which the ball is reaching the mound.

And then we look at the football situation. Trust me, I am well aware that poor technique can cause a freak injury to happen. But, no technique in the world can stop 250 lb. men from running at each other at freakishly high speeds literally trying to take each others head off.

As an industry, we are in the business of making better athletes. By doing this though, are we making these sports more dangerous?

At what point is it too much?

How far will we push the limits of human performance until we truly regret it?

As the title states, I am truly afraid we are creating monsters and I’m not sure where it ends.

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Comments
  1. Justin,

    Great read. I couldn’t agree with you more. Although I might argue with the fact that Pitchers taking line drives off the head is actually a technique issue also. PFP man! Pitchers constantly leave themselves in a venerable position after throwing a pitch. I’m waiting for the first BRAVE Pitcher to walk out with a mask on. Competitive Men’s slow pitch pitchers do it, as well as lacrosse and hockey. (Prob never happen, but might not be a bad idea) I am actually dealing with a University right now that the AD told me that he wants his players to become tough and play through some of their injuries. As you probably know we had to have a heart to heart about him saying that. I think the MLB and NFL have done a pretty good job at shutting a player down when noticing tightness or smaller injury as a precautionary measure. It’s too bad this isn’t being practiced the same in the lower levels of middle school, high school, and college. Nice Blog.

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