Encouraging students to participate in sport is great for the most part, but the potential injuries that accompany each activity are seldom considered. Promoting participation is also promoting competition, and the high physical stress that students endure can often result in injury.
Sports like American football, bear the brunt of media attention surrounding injuries, but it persists as an issue across many different sports. Despite not being considered as physically brutal, swimming, volleyball, and tennis, for example, all include different elements that can lead to life-changing injuries. A Stirling student that understands this all too well is fourth-year Marta Krauze.
Originally from Latvia, Krauze has been playing tennis for 15 years, with the sport even influencing her decision to move to Scotland. Tennis is her life, and she credits it for making her the person she is today.
Unfortunately, however, Krauze has endured a myriad of injuries in her playing career, saying “people are shocked if I don’t turn up injured.”
She suffered from golfer’s elbow at age eleven, and it struck again and again throughout her teenage years. Krauze sustained the injury just by using a racket of the wrong weight; something so simple has had catastrophic repercussions.
“I tend to play until I’m in excruciating pain,” says Krauze, making even regular training sessions difficult. But the physical struggle is also accompanied by a mental burden. When your entire life is centred around becoming a pro-athlete, what happens if you’re told you can’t?
Krauze always envisioned herself becoming a professional tennis player, but “being injured is like being fired every time.” She tries to forget it ever happened.
Injuries plague the sporting world, but also spark other opportunities within the industry. Physical therapists treat the injuries, journalists discuss the issues, and coaches encourage progression.
A passion for sport can be expressed outside of just playing, and Krauze now aims to become a professional coach. Tennis isn’t something she could ever move away from. “Without it,” Krauze says, “I’d probably be lost and back in Latvia.”
While Krauze’s injuries have caused her great hardship, they’ve also allowed her to discover a different career that she may never have considered otherwise. Perhaps athletes just carry an extra sense of resilience that allows them to persevere during tough times, as this was also the case for foreign-exchange student Bayly Poor, who is spending her fourth year of university in Stirling.
Poor was on a volleyball scholarship for the University of Wyoming, playing in the NCAA Division One: the best university league in the United States. She was an exceptional player, starting for her team in the regularly televised games.
While warming up for a demo match, Poor landed off balance and heard an uproar of screams from the crowd. Poor fell to the ground having torn her ACL, MCL, PCL, and lateral meniscus, requiring a full knee reconstruction and ending her career as a volleyball player immediately.
Most athletes at this level of play plan to go pro; their entire life revolves around their sport. A career-ending injury would therefore be, in most cases, completely devastating – but Poor was excited.
Though she loves volleyball, it also meant many sacrifices. “When you play at that level, you give up your summers, your Christmas break, all of it,” she explained. Training consumed six hours a day, and volleyball just became a method of affording the staggering prices of American university.
Her injury was a blessing in disguise, and Poor had a whole new world void of volleyball to explore. The opportunity to study abroad quickly became a focus, and the University of Stirling stood out. “Once I saw that Scotland was an option, nothing else seemed right.”
Even after the $100,000 surgery and twelve-month recovery time, the injury still affects Poor. Playing volleyball again is out of the question, but she assists the Stirling University team as she finishes her degree in Scotland.
Sporting injuries can be awful. They can prematurely end the careers of many young athletes, crushing their dreams in the process. Being denied one life path because of an injury, however, can also open up other, more exciting routes. As seen here, it can create a new career, or even take you halfway around the world.