Athletes cope with injuries from playing school sports

With injuries hindering their ability to play, many SCHS athletes find themselves on the bench, only being able to cheer on their teammates. From a tweaked muscle to cardiac arrest, many high school athletes across the nation have to deal with injuries.

After returning from the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, athletic trainer Pakka Paradi noticed a substantial amount of injuries, especially dealing with ankles and hamstrings. However, she has seen a decrease this year.

“Luckily, this year, we haven’t had a lot of injuries. I think that they had a really good pre-season conditioning program,” Paradi said.

Although Paradi treats injuries, she also looks to prevent them from occurring through pre-season conditioning plans, which help athletes become stronger and more capable, limiting risk.

“While I kind of tap into athletic training injury prevention, I will look into the common injuries of that specific sport,” Paradi said. “There’s a lot of data online, on the research of common injuries, and we tailor the program to those.”

When reflecting on injury causes, Paradi believes being ill-prepared is the root.

“I would say just the lack of conditioning before they get into their sport and such is the biggest reason,” Paradi said. “Then, obviously – it’s what we are told in school and what we see all the time – that a previous injury could increase the likelihood of the range by like three- or four-fold.”

Although most injuries are preventable, boys and girls tennis coach Will Kennedy finds it hard to always catch them before they happen because of the wear and tear that happens slowly.

“It’s more of a long term kind of wearing down of somebody,” Kennedy said. “Maybe shoulder, you know, where it’s just repetitive use.”

Wearing down of the body does not only occur in tennis. Soccer player freshman Sora Pham injured her psoas, has a misaligned hip and strained her hamstring from wear and tear over time. Although she does not enjoy being injured, she appreciates the support from her teammates as well as her coach.

“He’s very supportive and he cares a lot about each player, so he cares about when we’re injured,” Pham said. “It matters that we heal.”

As an athlete involved in Winterguard, sophomore Maya Villareal has been injured multiple times while practicing and performing, including obtaining cuts, bruises and concussions. She dislikes having to sit out but uses the time to heal herself physically and mentally through ointments and relaxation.

“I definitely use ice or heat,” Villarreal said. “Either rocking it or massage and stuff. I find different creams like numbing creams are really helpful, but just using the time to heal my body, making sure I am well again.”

Villarreal also uses her recovery time to reflect and improve on her skills, allowing her to improve when she is not with the team.

“Definitely looking back and seeing what I did wrong,” Villarreal said. “Like things that I could fix so it won’t happen again.”

As an athletic trainer, Paradi sees various types of injuries, each needing a different treatment. However, she cannot always have one-on-one treatments with athletes. Therefore, she often gives players specific exercises to complete each night in order to heal quickly and properly.

“I think at this age, it’s really important to learn how to be responsible for your body,” Paradi said. “So I always tell them consistency is key.”

Over the course of her three years at SCHS, Paradi has not seen many extreme accidents, but she has been a part of a few. Although these accidents can be scary, Paradi said, she and the other athletic trainer stayed calm and handled the situation in a professional manner.

“This year, it was an away game,” Paradi said. “It was a full ankle dislocation that we had to call EMT for. It was handled perfectly.”

Kennedy also mentioned that all coaches are given training for medical emergencies, but he is lucky that nothing extreme has ever happened.

“I know all the coaches receive training and CPR and first aid and for heat stroke, or things like that,” Kennedy said. “Things could happen, but fortunately haven’t yet.”

While playing water polo for San José State University, Paradi was introduced to an athletic trainer after getting injured, and she found her passion for helping others with injuries.

“I realized they kind of made sense to me, the idea being an athlete, knowing your body, knowing your muscles and kind of having that experience,” Paradi said. “She soon became my mentor, and then I kind of just led one thing to another and actually, my physical therapist was the one who hired me.”

Over the years, Paradi has gained experience with high school students, allowing her to adjust the way she treats athletes.

“I think I’ve changed a bunch in how I approach an evaluation,” Paradi said. “I’ve worked at the university level for a long while – for a pretty long time, too – so it’s a little different. They were more mature and stuff, so I try not to dumb it down but maybe simplify my approach.”

Although Paradi deals with a lot of injured athletes, she strives to create a positive environment in her training room. She mentioned that injuries can be frustrating, but most of her patients are motivated to get better quickly.

“Well, whoever comes in here… they know that they want to take care of their bodies,” Paradi said. “So they already have that kind of mental mindset that they want to get better.”