Injured student athletes reflect on experiences going through recovery

Lillian Small/The Mossy Log

Student athletes, in their constant efforts in multitasking, seamlessly juggle the demands of academics and athletics with the precision of a seasoned tightrope walker. What happens when they are injured, and are thrown off the balance they have worked so hard to create? 

Jordan Lahusky ’26 and Bethany Ballesteros ’25 both shared their experiences of being a student athlete with injuries. Lahusky is both on the football team and the track and field team. Ballesteros is on the volleyball team and was previously also a member of the track and field team. Both have sustained impactful injuries, causing them to miss parts or all of their respective seasons. 

As Ballesteros recalled her injuries, she recounted the many different times she had been injured, some minor and others more extreme. During her volleyball season, Ballesteros sustained a concussion that did not allow her to play for two weeks while she recovered. Around that time, she also sustained an ankle injury which caused her to be put in a boot. Ballesteros recalled how she had tried to force herself to recover faster, not wanting to sit out, her eagerness to rejoin the team leaving her body significantly stressed. 

Although her concussion did not interfere with a majority of the volleyball season, the stress caused by attempting to get better quickly contributed to her ankle injury, causing her to miss the track and field season. The road to recovery proved to be a tough one, especially since when being treated for her concussion she was advised to get lots of rest, something she mentioned she does not prioritize. During this time, Lewis & Clark’s different resources proved to be really helpful to Ballesteros. 

She recalled how unmotivated she felt and how difficult it became getting herself to class or anywhere in general, she explained how helpful her athletic trainers were in getting her the resources she needed. They helped report her concussion, assisted her in getting academic accommodations and extensions through the Office of Student Accessibility. This allowed her to get back on track with her assignments and in turn not fall behind in her academics. 

Ballesteros then explained how walking around in a cast proved difficult, remembering  that it felt as if she was losing her independence. She was relying on others to help her get around, further demonstrating how much of a mental challenge this experience was. As she worked towards recovery, she explained that  her calves were two different sizes, and how her rehab process was a mental battle more so than simply a physical one. She emphasized how her mental health deteriorated.

“(It) felt like there was nothing I could do, like my body was just broken and I couldn’t help it,” Ballesteros said.

Her trainers put her in touch with the counseling center here at LC if she needed someone else to talk to. 

During this process Ballesteros remembered a program started by one of her classmates, the Mental Health Validation program designed for student athletes going through similar experiences such as Ballesteros to learn about mental health and the resources that are readily available to them. This program focuses on providing holistic wellbeing to athletes and provides group sessions, workshops and on-campus counseling drop in hours for athletes as well as resources off-campus. Ballesteros knew this was a resource she could utilize, providing her with a greater sense of support. 

As she recovered, she came to the realization that doing both volleyball and track were not beneficial to her wellbeing as she was overworking herself. Having an impossible decision to make, Ballesteros decided to withdraw from the track team in order to focus solely on volleyball. As she recounted her experience, she offered a piece of advice to athletes struggling with mental health as a result of injuries. 

“It’s a hard journey but it’s one you have to take, at the end of the day, it’s worth it to see the growth you make from recovering from your injury and being able to play again, just seeing how much you grow in that time, not only do you get physically stronger you get mentally tougher,” said Ballesteros. 

She also stated how she did what she had to do to get back to doing what she loved. Ballesteros is just one of the many student athletes here at LC that has struggled with substantial injuries and balancing other aspects of her life. 

During Lahusky’s first year playing football, he pulled his hamstring. He recalled that because the trainers were there, they were immediately able to help him. They had him do physical therapy, start rehab and the team doctor was able to get him a full evaluation. 

Similarly to Ballesteros, Lahusky recalled how his injury was more of a “mental battle than a physical one.” 

He explained how having a close support group and system helped him to keep a positive mindset and attitude. Having previously torn his ACL during his senior year of highschool, Lahusky was able to pull strength from his previous experiences with injuries and take physical therapy very seriously. As it was his first year playing college football, he knew it would not severely impact his football journey. Lahusky offers his advice to injured student athletes. “Keep a positive mindset, take physical therapy very seriously, focus on getting healthy again, talk to friends and family, and know that it will be okay and life will move on so you gotta keep moving with it,” said Lahusky. 

Student athletes face injuries all the time. Working to manage those injuries while being able to balance other things such as academics and their mental health is difficult. As both Ballesteros and Lahusky recounted their experiences, they commend LC’s resources and support. The road to recovery is not an easy one and it is motivating to see how they have grown and learned from those injuries. Knowing you are not alone is an important aspect in recovery. Their stories provide valuable understanding and insight into how one can prioritize their well-being when faced with an injury.

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