Question of the Day

This winter I got injured. I’ve tried different treatments but haven’t had success. I tried cortisone shots but that made my pain worse. From what I’ve been told it seems like my next step is surgery. Though it’s arthroscopic the recovery time is 4-6 weeks. I’m terrified of the surgery and upset over maybe missing my first college spring season. Do you have any words of wisdom to help me through this? Also if I competed in the fall would I be able to redshirt or would I have had to be out in the fall?

Regarding redshirting, here’s a copy and paste of what it says in the NCAA Rulebook. I’ve bolded the important parts to make it easier to understand. If you want to look it up yourself it’s Bylaw 14.2.4, “Hardship Waiver”, but it’d be in your best interest to go talk to your compliance officer about it since they know the rule book and logistics surrounding everything far better than I do.

“A student-athlete may be granted an additional year of competition by the conference or the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for reasons of “hardship.” Hardship is defined as an incapacity resulting from an injury or illness that has occurred under all of the following conditions:

(a) The incapacitating injury or illness occurs in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition at any two-year or four-year collegiate institutions or occurs after the first day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;

(b) The injury or illness occurs prior to the first competition of the second half of the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship in that sport (see Bylaw 14.2.4.3.4) and results in incapacity to compete for the remainder of that playing season;

(c) In team sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport. Only scheduled or completed competition against outside participants during the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship, or, if so designated, during the official NCAA championship playing season in that sport (e.g., spring baseball, fall soccer), shall be countable under this limitation in calculating both the number of contests or dates of competition in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition during that season in the sport.

Dates of competition that are exempted (e.g., alumni contests, foreign team in the United States) from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition shall count toward the number of contests or dates in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in the season, except for scrimmages and exhibition contests that are specifically identified as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regulations. Scrimmages and exhibition contests that are not exempted from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition may be excluded from the calculation only if they are identified as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regulations.

(There’s a part “d” but it applies to individual sports, which rowing is not, so I didn’t include it.)

If you raced in the fall I don’t think that matters since part “b” says the injury has to happen before the first competition of the second half of the season that ends with the NCAA championships. Talk to your compliance person to be sure though. All that being said, you have to be able to provide proof (aka medical documentation from the athletic trainers and your doctors/surgeons) that the injury is season-ending. I’m not saying yours isn’t or couldn’t be considered that but an arthroscopic surgery with a recovery time of 4-6 weeks might make the rules committee question its severity.

Be realistic too, do you really want to stay in school any longer than necessary just to say you raced all four seasons? This is just my opinion obviously but there’s no way I’d shell out an extra semester or year’s worth of tuition just to row for another season. If I was a football or basketball player with serious NFL/NBA potential, I’d probably consider it (then again, I’d also probably be on scholarship which would make it an easier decision) but for rowing, I don’t think so.

If none of the therapies you’ve tried so far have worked and the doctors are saying the next step is surgery then you should probably have the surgery. Admittedly I’m a terrible person to ask about things like this because if I’m injured I’m just gonna do whatever I’ve gotta do to get back on the water. Being scared of having the surgery is a totally foreign concept to me because I tend to take a very pragmatic approach to these kinds of situations. I’d rather get knocked out for a few hours and be in some pain for a few days afterwards but know that the problem is fixed than be in a consistent amount of pain for weeks, months, or years on end because I’m afraid of the scalpel or whatever. Anyways, that’s just my point of view. If you look up any college roster you’ll probably see at least two or three rowers with “sat out their ________ season due to medical hardship” or “redshirted their _________ year” in their bios. It’s not uncommon.

My advice? Schedule the surgery ASAP, get it done, and be extremely diligent with your rehab. You could conceivably be back before the end of the season if you had the surgery soon and while you might not be in the best boat, you could probably still vie for a spot in a boat. Something is better than nothing, right? Don’t rush anything though. If the doctors say you need to take the season off, do it.

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