Injured athletes can get more from colleges

Colleges may not be compensating their student athletes enough for the serious injuries some of them sustain

Danny Brennan’s bruised and swollen eye was never a serious injury. He is more concerned about if the school he plays for, Highlands University, is doing enough to compensate for his injury, and any others his baseball teammates might sustain.

“I’m not sure if scholarships alone are really worth anything,” Brennan said. “Colleges could do so much more.”

Brennan sustained a minor eye injury while picking up balls at a January practice. He didn’t look up in time as one was hit his way.

Brennan is thankful that his eye injury wasn’t anything more deadly than he knows it could have been. “A couple stitches and a few weeks sitting out before the season even starts – I’m lucky. I’ve already met some people who haven’t been as lucky.”

Brennan had to get five stitches as a result of the accident. His private insurance covered the costs.

A product of the times

The number of injuries college athletes get are higher than ever. More young men and women are getting involved in collegiate sports, resulting in a higher number of them being sidelined due to injury.

According to Dan Childs of the ABC News Medical Unit, improved training indirectly leads to more injuries as well. Stronger, faster athletes are being produced, and when they meet on the field, the results may be brutal.

Such results usually have to be covered completely by the athlete, especially at small schools like the one Brennan attends.

Dr. Andrew Veitch, a Sports Medicine Specialist at UNM, believes the scope by which colleges should compensate for such injures is too massive. “I don’t think it’s possible for colleges to fully compensate for injuries to all of their athletes simply because it’s a part of the job, and they go in fully realizing that,” Veitch said.  

Unsurprisingly, injuries are most prevalent in football – which most will agree is indeed the most brutal sport. According The American Journal of Sports Medicine, the number of injuries sustained in football are more than twelve times higher than the next most injury-prone sport.

The Journal of Athletic Training says that injury rates sustained in games are about four times higher than those sustained in practice. “‘Leaving all you have on the field’ is a popular mantra in collegiate sports these days, and athletes are sometimes pressured to perform to the point where they push their bodies over the limit,” Veitch said.

According to a USA Today report, the average salary of a Division I college basketball coach who made the NCAA tournament this year is $1.4 million. Their players won’t get a penny.

Colleges should educate their athletes

Concussions and ACL tears get the most attention, but they are far from the most common injury. In the same way, injuries that athletes get in games may be more serious , but those that come in practice, or even preseason, are more common.

According to Dr. Ann Gately, a team physician for UNM athletics, overuse injuries are among those she comes across most frequently. “They certainly account for a good number of injuries to student athletes, between 15 and 35 percent depending on the sport,” Gately said.

According to a study published in Sports Medicine, overuse injuries occur with gradual onset over time and result from a mechanism of repetitive stress and cumulative trauma. “Essentially, they come from minor, unnoticed blows to the body which over time result in an injury that deems the body unfit for sports,” Gately said.

According to Gately, lack of rest and an unconditioned body are the primary causes  of overuse injuries. “Collegiate athletes – athletes at all levels, for that matter – would do well to educate themselves about their sport and the importance of rest and the proper methods of warming up and cooling down. Knowing proper procedure would greatly reduce the risk of overuse injury, which can really be deadly over a long period of time,” she said.

According to Gately, Colleges taking the initiative in educating their athletes would go a long way in improving their overall physical well-being.

Overuse injury isn’t what happened to Brennan at Highlands. Had it been, he might have spent his entire freshman year on the bench, possibly jeopardizing his baseball career.