Injuries are a test of character

Injuries are part of life when you play as much and as hard as collegiate athletes do. AP Photo/Chuck Burton

"Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune."
-- William James

Time surely is flying as we are head first into the spring semester and more than halfway through our season. I have been busy taking care of business in the classroom and am on track to graduate next spring, which is an exciting but scary thought. The whole reason I went to a smaller NAIA school was to be happy and more relaxed with my daily workload. Honestly, I can say that it has been the most enjoyable year so far and it couldn't be any more of a perfect fit for me as well.

My basketball career here at Union has been quite the rollercoaster. I feel like I have encountered two phases that have been a never-ending cycle for me. The first phase is attempting to get back in shape after suffering an injury or setback and the next phase is experiencing an additional injury that sidelines me once again. If I could describe the way I feel in one word I would definitely use "frustrated" because it is difficult to take on so many injuries in one season. I am a sensible person and I understand that I have been playing basketball at a high level for at least 11 years with very limited time off for rest. There comes a time when your body will start to catch up with you and that is when injuries occur.

In the last article I wrote, I shared how I had reinjured the MCL in my left knee. That injury benched me for almost five weeks before I could return to action. My time spent at home over the holidays involved workouts on a stationary bike and other forms of cardio training to prepare me for the conference season. When I returned to campus I was able to practice a few days before our opening conference game on Jan. 6. I could tell I was nowhere close to being in suitable cardio shape, but that is something that usually increases with time.

The first part of our conference schedule was going to be tough because three of the first five games were away. My first two games back were tough but it felt good getting back into a game rhythm. Then, the next week I felt a lot better and was named player of the week in the Appalachian Athletic Conference. I recorded 24 points and seven rebounds in one game and then 26 points and 11 rebounds in the other. I was feeling so much better already and I could see improved cardio conditioning with each game and practice. There were a few aches and pains, but nothing too bad at all. It seemed as though everything was finally looking up and I was seeing the results of my hard work paying off right in front of me.

Unfortunately, my accomplishment was short-lived. I went from the conference player of the week one day to right back on the sidelines within the next week. In our Wednesday night home game against Milligan College (Elizabethton, Tenn.) I took a mid-range shot and got hit in the air. As I began to fall I could tell that I was going to land in an awkward position. My leg ended up landing in a locked stance and it caused my hip to slightly dislocate which caused a cartilage tear in my labrum. This is the most painful injury I have ever had to deal with and it is also a pretty unusual injury for basketball players from what I have been told. It is more common in rotational sports like golf, baseball, soccer, etc., so in my situation it was just a freak accident and an unfortunate way to land.

I head back to the doctor in a couple of week to see whether I will need surgery to repair the damage. The most important part of the injury process is to not lose your head and become angered, depressed, or whatever you might be feeling. Having supportive people around always is a nice thing as well. It is so hard to stay positive when it looks like everything is not working out the way you want it to. I have played in less than half of our games now and it would be all too easy for me to give in to all of the adverse circumstances that have come in my way. I refuse to do that because I am a fierce competitor and I view this as a challenge to make me stronger mentally.

During our lifetime, I am sure we all will be faced with many hardships and other difficulties that we cannot control. The key to life is not what happens to us but how we deal with it and turn it into an encouraging situation for the better. This quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., came to my mind as I was watching practice the other day. It states, "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." This quote speaks to every aspect of our lives. It keeps me passionate about becoming a better person on the court, off the court, in the classroom, at work and anywhere in between. An injury can only keep you down if you let it and that is why I choose to stay busy, work hard, and put it in the hands of the big man upstairs to help guide me along the rest of the way. Life is nothing but a big game of tests and I choose to live above the rim!

Until next time, stay cool and keep ballin' y'all!

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Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be contacted at rebecca@hoopgurlz.com.