Pain Don’t Hurt

They’re discussing stupid playing-through-injury stories on Mike&Mike this morning– Golic talked about injuring his shoulder badly enough that he couldn’t lift his arm above shoulder level, and using a wall to push his hand up higher than that, so the trainer would let him go back in for the second half. Having separated both shoulders playing rugby (at different times), I know just how that feels. One of my senior-year games against amherst, I had to have my fellow second row lift my arm up for me a few times in the try zone, to loosen it up enough to keep going. (We lost the game, but not because of me…)

The very stupidest playing-while-injured thing I ever did was probably junior year at UMASS!!!, when I was playing on the B side with the most dysfunctional line in the history of rugby. Every time there was a ruck or a maul, there would be at least three different line calls made– from the stand-off, from the fullback, and from one of the wings. After about a half of this, the pack decided that we just weren’t going to give them the ball any more, unless we absolutely had no choice.

Part of this genius plan was to run the “Hoss Run” on every penalty play– of which there were many, UMASS!!! being a team well-stocked with clueless football rejects. This was before the rule change giving the line-out to the kicking team on a penalty, so our only hope to hang onto the ball was to, well, hang onto the ball. So the scrum-half would kick the ball through the mark, and then hand it to the biggest guy in the pack, which was me, and I would run straight ahead as far as I could. Then I’d hand it back to the second-biggest guy, who would make what headway he could, then hand it to the third-biggest guy, who would get driven back to where I was just getting back to my feet.

It was terrible, ugly, brutal rugby. It also got me kicked in the head repeatedly.

At one point in the second half, the ball went into touch, and we started to set up for a line-out. I lined up facing the center of the field, on the wrong side of the line-out. The referee stopped everyone, came up to me, and said “Son, are you all right?” I looked around, said “Ooh!” and moved around to the right spot.

He looked at my eyes, which I like to think were doing that cartoon pinwheel thing, and said “Son, do you know where you are?”

“I’m on a rugby pitch!” I replied.

“In what town?”

“…. Amherst?” I guessed.

The referee shrugged, and said “OK,” and we continued the game.

(That was a miserable, horrible ride home…)

So, I can understand where Golic is coming from. It’s still incredibly stupid, but I understand the mentality. I’ve tried to be better about stopping playing when I’ve done something to cause myself pain, but my first instinct is to keep playing, if I can possibly go on.


  1. #1 Rob Jase
    September 17, 2009

    As I sit here wearing my back brace due to an injury at work back in ’84, I politely disagree with the title of this post.

  2. #2 MiddleO'Nowhere
    September 17, 2009

    I think more insidious is the injury that doesn’t really hurt due to endorphins, but once you cool down or go to sleep, it manifests itself with a vengeance. I pulled groin muscles on both legs one time and didn’t know it. I went to sleep, and when I woke up and tried to stand up, I fell over. I couldn’t walk properly for a week.

  3. #3 Steven O
    September 17, 2009

    I played an entire basketball season in high school with a major back injury. It was bad enough that if I was sitting in a desk for more than 5 minutes I would get shooting pains up and down both legs, if I stood up, it took about a minute before I could actually straighten up and if I turned the wrong way in a game I would lose all the strength in my legs and almost fall over. Sadly I ‘toughed’ it out and have been paying for it ever since. I have finally gotten my back to the point where it doesn’t hurt everyday (8 years later).

    After basketball season I immediately started training for track, until I finally went to the doctor and was ordered to stop training immediately.

  4. #4 Rajesh
    September 17, 2009

    @Rob Jase: Title from Patrick Swayze, RIP, in Roadhouse.

  5. #5 Kate Nepveu
    September 17, 2009

    For maximum effect, imagine the responses to the ref in a chirpy/desparate tone of voice . . .

  6. #6 grrljock
    September 17, 2009

    Speaking of rugby, the best reply I heard to a referee’s inquiry was about 3 years ago, during a club women’s game. The ref was testing a prop’s lucidity after she went down in a failed ruck/maul: “Who’s president?” The reply: “George f%&@in’ Bush.”

    She was cleared to play on.

  7. #7 william dyer
    September 17, 2009

    I have post-sports problems now from my determination to play through injuries up to and including my collegiate years. My main sport was baseball and my primary position was catcher. Now at my mid-30’s I am finding out how badly I beat on my body and have an injury taken 15 or 20yrs earlier resulting in 3 or 4 reoccurring aches and problems. Such as breaking my nose and now having a bit of a deviated septum.

    The biggest injury I had was with my knees that are pretty much shot at this point. Especially the one knee that I tore my MCL. While taking infield practice with the rest of the infield, I tried backhanding a hot a line drive to my right. I misplayed and whiffed on it terribly and the ball short-hopped right into the inside of my right knee as I planted. The experience felt like a Looney Toons cartoon where some part of a character gets hit and goes out and rebounds back to the sound of a rubber band. Except I also felt an injection of sharp, blinding pain on my part. I of course hobbled about and tried telling the coach and trainer the equivalent of “it’s just flesh wound.”

    I had a week off and by the start of the next week between the icing, rest, and extreme amount of taping and bracing I got in the game again. I got back to playing mostly by shrugging off the pain I was in and turning away and further examination or imaging, that in the ensuing years has revealed through scar tissue exactly how much damage I did not just at the time, but by insisting on playing through the pain.

    I was in a great deal of pain and was not under the delusion of “going pro”, so really I should have by all sensible measures shut it down. And yet, I half think getting injured just made me more determined to play, damn the consequences. Some sort of defiance to my own body and its limits.

  8. #8 Tom
    September 18, 2009

    Learning to stop instead of grinding it out is an absolute necessity as one gets older, and you discover that not only are injuries more common, but healing takes longer. One starts to understand the adage “discretion is the better part of valor”

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