From a standstill, Kansas football end-time McCopeland pushed his body forward. His front leg squeezed the turf under the spike and absorbed the strength and weight of his 6-foot-4, 255-pound frame.
Without warning, Copeland’s second season was about to end abruptly.
Football is often known for its fierce clashes. But there were no defenders in training that day, as the team held several “routes on air”. Copeland focused on sprinting the fast route, followed by a catch.
Towards the end of the track Copeland turned to spot the ball. The jump and the catch with both hands succeeded. However, there was no landing. Copeland’s left foot awkwardly grounded as he descended the turf.
He immediately felt “pop”.
From afar the landing did not look catastrophic. Copeland landed and remained on two legs. He did not scream or writhe in pain. Instead, he tried to run away.
That’s when reality passed 78 inches of his body from the foot to the somatosensory cortex – the part of the brain responsible for physical sensations. SOpeland called a nearby coach, unable to withstand the weight on his left leg.
As soon as the coach realized that Copeland could not withstand the weight on the outside of his foot, he suspected the worst. At the gym, coaches removed socks, tape and shoes from Copeland.
Copeland’s swollen foot and X-ray confirmed the severity of the injury – a fracture of the metatarsal bone.
Copeland received a boot, crutches, and later a scooter. His first sporting injury ended his second football season, but Copeland’s only focus was recovering over the next three and a half months.
Athletes remain athletes until they appear. When shock from an injury, the athlete’s support system is vital. Without a solid foundation athletes will struggle in the recovery process. This can be the difference between a speedy recovery and a career-ending injury.
“Just on the other side of the injury you see a lot and notice things that you don’t usually notice from the outside in terms of your teammates and the way they do,” Copeland said, reflecting on months of recovery. . “It gives you a lot of respect for them and a lot of time to think about how much you care about your teammates and what you can do to support them even when you’re not on the playing field.”
Athletes from elite colleges are determined by the sports they play. It would have been shocking if they had spent 20 hours a week perfecting the craft, which it wasn’t. So when an injury deprives them of sports, it hurts. Mental and emotional recovery can take as much time or more than physical recovery.
The culture of the team starts with the coaching staff. Thus, this culture is a major variable that affects an athlete’s success during recovery, said Kansas PhD and researcher Troy Weinger. The environment can make an injured athlete feel disconnected and useless, or well supported.
In the program, health, education and psychology of physical activity, Weinger conducts research on topics such as the recovery of athletes after injury. During his work, Weinger develops relationships with athletes who share their experiences of injury.
“It can be exhausting for athletes,” Weinger said. “Feel the pressure” I’m not appreciated if I don’t contribute to the team’s success. “
Weininger speaks from experience since he spent four years doing cross-country and athletics at Fort Hayes University. In his fourth year at Hayes Weininger was injured. During his recovery he started going to KU classes. Remaining one season indoors and two outdoors, he initiated the transition to the Kansas training team as a preferred player.
After recovering from the injury Weinger started trying. But a few days later he got a fracture of the calcaneus. Without signed commitments to the team, his college running career ended unceremoniously.
During recovery from injuries such as his own, athletes often linger under what Winninger calls “unproductive clouds”. These “clouds” of harmful thoughts are formed when athletes face prolonged injuries in an unsuitable environment. Athletes then wake up every day with excitement about whether they will be healthy enough to survive the workout.
“If you’re in a team environment where the coach doesn’t pay attention to you because you’re injured or you have teammates who stop registering, you see the motivation go through the toilet,” Weinger said. “You see that shame and anxiety increase, and it really makes the recovery process harder.”
For optimal mental and physical recovery, Weinger said, athletes need to be encouraged by their support systems. Relieving pressure on athletes to return quickly also ensures that they do not return too quickly. Repeated damage only returns them to physiotherapy.
Environment in motion:
Hannah Romer has been a rower since the beginning of her career in Kansas. After a two-year treadmill at Garden City Public College, Romer was recruited as the preferred passer-by in Kansas. During these seasons, she experienced pressure drifts to return after the injury, returning too early and then experiencing re-injury or new injury.
Roemer received treatment for his injuries and underwent careful physiotherapy, but did not notice significant progress in recovery. Not seeing the end, she rowed through the pain.
Since the beginning of her career at Roemer College she has been the fastest in her rowing class. This meant that she often knocked high school students off their seats in boats, putting the target on their backs.
“I was the best newbie. Like, how cool does that sound? ” Said Roemer. “But what everyone made me feel was, ‘You don’t have to be here.'”
In the second year of Roemer and rowing from pain X-rays revealed bone spurs on his left thigh. In her final year of rowing an MRI showed she had a torn lip from bone spurs. However, Roemer suffered an injury before surgery that year.
After the operation, Roemer had another spring racing season before graduating. She could have returned to the boat, but the pain and the possibility of re-injury stopped her when she tried. Instead, she decided to stop rowing, allowing her right to end.
Once she finished her rowing career, Roemer’s relationship with coaches and the team deteriorated.
“The mentorship of the coaches over me has changed:“ It’s over with her. We don’t even have to think about it anymore, ”Roemer said.
The feeling of losing their sport and team community was difficult.
“What we experience when we are traumatized, we grieve for the trauma, and then we grieve because of the loss of personal identity,” Roemer said.
Kansas Athletics did not specifically refer to Roemer’s experience, but issued the following statement: “We are very concerned about the physical and mental health of our student-athletes, and we make every effort to support them if we know they can fight. Through our partnership with Kansas Team Health, many resources are available to support the physical and mental well-being of KU student-athletes. In addition, Kansas Athletics works with RealResponse, a company that provides student athletes with an anonymous communication platform to share issues or feedback about their experiences. ”
Mental trauma tests:
When an athlete is injured, mental resilience is crucial. Recovery time should include physical and mental recovery, said student athlete from Kansas Athletics, Dr. Jason Kraman.
Kraman said the athletes are dealing with a huge schedule and exhaustion. Injury is rarely seen as an opportunity for athletes to devote time to themselves. Time to reconnect with their “why” – why they play their sport; take care of what they do. Athletes, remembering their motivation to play sports, help to avoid “traps of negative thinking.”
“Even the most elite athletes will literally slip and fall because you guessed it? We are people, ”Kraman said. “When they are put on this human pedestal, it is staggering. Instead, it is better to just be with them if there are wrong steps. ”
The team culture created by the coach also helps athletes in mental struggle, Weinger said. A coach can create an adaptive or maladaptive environment for athletes by motivating or demotivating athletes.
Research shows that the most productive results come from task orientation. This is where success is based on personal effort and improvement. Athletes can only control their performance.
“When you determine your success based on winning over others, comparing yourself to others, those things get out of control,” Weinger said.
If the environment is destroyed:
Unlike Roemer, Copeland retained a sense of belonging throughout his recovery. He was supported and worked through shorter terms of injury. He knew his injury didn’t stop his career, and returned to his teammates as soon as he recovered.
“If a leg injury happens to a footballer, a basketball player, anyone else, it’s pretty hard because you can’t – there’s no other way to be on the field with your teammates,” Copeland said.
Copeland said that through his recovery he was surrounded by good people. His teammates, coaches and coaches have rallied behind him, and to this day he appreciates support. Copeland played in nine of 12 games last fall and plans to return for a fifth year.
Roemer’s situation was different. She faced the injury for an indefinite period. As a freshman rower, she felt like an outsider. Roemer was overwhelmed by school, practice and her trauma. Without a proper environment, her injury ended her career.
Roemer graduated from Kansas in 2021 with a degree in exercise and is a performance coach at Google. She still remembers the hardships of her injuries.
“I had days when I came back from the test and had a breakdown because I had three tests that day and then I had a rowing test and I just couldn’t do it,” Roemer said. “I said, ‘I’m so physically exhausted that no matter how it turns out, it’s not going to be my best,’ which is hard to say because obviously I want to do my best.”
If an athlete is healthy, he can withstand hardships less than an optimal sports environment. When an athlete is injured, chaos bursts into their daily lives. This is where cracks appear in a hostile environment.