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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

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Why athletes play through injuries

Redshirt sophomore running back MJ Flowers (20) practiced through an ankle injury the summer before the 2023 season. (File)

Injuries are a part of the game for college athletes. Whether they play through them is something else.

Redshirt sophomore running back MJ Flowers knew all about that when he had a low ankle sprain the summer before last season.

Flowers said that he played through it because his body wasn’t telling him that he couldn’t play.

“I honestly thought it was over because when the pain hit at that moment it be like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Flowers said. “I iced it, got checked at urgent care and then I was able to come back that next day actually. I just practiced through it the whole summer, and then throughout the season it didn’t occur again.”

After that practice, he went to urgent care, and they told him that he would have to sit out.

“When they asked me what happened at checkup, I was like, ‘I’m good,’” Flowers said.

One thing that Flowers said he wouldn’t play through was a concussion.

“A concussion, that’s nothing to play with,” Flowers said. “I was just talking to my friends, had the glasses on, I wasn’t on my phone or nothing.”

Eastern football head coach Chris Wilkerson said that a concussion is one of the injuries that his players are not allowed to play through.

“There are some that are non-negotiable. Any of the concussion stuff right now you’re out until you can clear the concussion return to play protocol,” Wilkerson said.

Redshirt sophomore forward Kooper Jacobi (40) sustained a foot fracture that he played on for a week before sitting out the rest of the 2023-2024 season. (File)

Redshirt sophomore forward Kooper Jacobi also dealt with an injury this past season, but he was not able to return from it before the season ended.

Jacobi fractured the fourth metatarsal in his right foot, which would be right by the pinky toe, before Eastern’s game against the University of Tennessee at Martin.

He would go on to play with the injury for about a week because he thought it was a strain. When it wouldn’t stop hurting, he went to the doctor to get it checked out.

Jacobi decided to sit out to get back to his normal health when it got to that point.

“I feel like there’s a certain point where it’s stopping you from playing normal,” Jacobi said. “There’s some injuries where you can play, you may be sore at first but like 10-15 minutes in practice or in a game and you’re good. Some it’s like it doesn’t go away, and that’s when I’m like I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Both Flowers and Jacobi said that if an injury happened later in the season, they would try to push through it and finish out the season.

“If it’s that last game, the last two games, and we need them wins, depending on which team is being played, I feel like I gotta play. It just doesn’t sit right with me as a competitor,” Flowers said.

Jacobi said that he saw that in some of his teammates this season.

“I think a couple guys had something hurt, but there was three or four weeks left, and they were like, ‘I’ll just push through,’” Jacobi said. “If it was the beginning of the season, I feel like it would have been harder to push.”

Eastern football athletic trainer Scott Goehner said that this is very common for players to do towards the end of the season, but it does depend on how the season is going.

“There were more guys that were more willing to push through things if we’re doing well,” Goehner said. “The prior two years, we had guys that had pushed through things early in the season and towards the end were just like, ‘I can’t keep doing this anymore.’”

Eastern women’s basketball and men’s soccer athletic trainer Jehan Ayap said that she sees this in the sports that she helps too.

“Near the end of the season, the stakes are always higher, playoff spots, conference stuff near the end,” Ayap said. “For some of [these athletes], it can be the end of their first year or it could be the end of their career.”

Both Goehner and Ayap said that not every athlete is the same. Some are willing to push through an injury but there are some that don’t play unless they feel 100 percent.

“I have [offensive] lineman, they’re at forty percent, they’re hobbling out there, they look terrible, it’s like dude just pull the plug, ‘No I can finish,’” Goehner said. “Then you have guys where the wind blew too hard and they don’t want to try and continue.”

Cross country and track and field athletic trainer Jim Nave said that as a trainer, he is trying to protect the athletes even when they want to play through an injury.

“I’m here to protect you from yourself sometimes,” Nave said. “In the case of cross country, track and field, I’m here to look at ‘Hey we have this many meets, what’s more important, the one at the end where we’re going for a conference championship or the next one?’”

One saying that Nave has is, “Athletes play through injury, but we don’t let injured athletes play.”

Ayap, Goehner and Nave all said that they are trying to keep the players healthy for life after college.

“As sad as it will be when their career ends, we’re just trying to make sure that they can understand and know that this is going to be a great part of your life, but you’re going to have great parts of your life after,” Ayap said. “Our top priority is to make sure that they can get to that point, they can enjoy the life once this life is over.”


Luther Yoder can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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Luther Yoder
Luther Yoder, Assistant Sports Editor
Luther Yoder is a sophomore journalism major. This is his first year at The News.

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