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Home alone

School closures leave athletes on their own to train, rehab

Times Observer photo by Andy Close Warren’s Aidan Morrison fires a pass to an open teammate during the first half of Friday’s game against General McLane.

There have been a litany of takes and perspectives since the sporting world essentially shut down in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic last week.

Athletes and coaches have discussed what it was like to have their seasons abruptly ended, fans continue to share on social media how they’re spending time without sports to watch and, a little closer to home, questions about whether high school athletes will have a spring season abound. There is one aspect; however, that has seemingly gone overlooked.

Injuries.

With virtually everything shut down, it’s going to be a bit harder for currently injured athletes to get back on the field. And if play does resume in time for the spring season, it could lead to an increase in injuries.

“While school is closed, completing the home exercise programs and icing will be essential (for currently injured athletes),” Andrea Shene, the athletic trainer who serves Warren County School District schools, said.

Since Pennsylvania schools weren’t closed until after schools in the neighboring states of Ohio and Maryland, Shene took advantage of the lead time to meet with all the athletes she was working with and give them ideas of things to do at home should the schools close.

“I was able to see those who were injured on the last day of practice before the break,” she said. “They were given recommendations for ice and home exercise programs. While school is closed, completing the home exercise programs and icing will be essential.”

One of the unintended consequences of the current closure restrictions is the inability to monitor recovery progression, especially for athletes dealing with head injuries.

“A serious issue may be the inability to perform ImPACT testing to help with assessing progress (for those with concussions),” Shene said.

Injury prevention often starts during the offseason, and ramps up in the first weeks of camp.

“Many of our coaches request exercise and stretching protocols to alleviate injury prior to the start of the season, which helps with keeping our athletes in optimal condition,” Shene said.

The PIAA currently sits in limbo about whether there will even be a spring sports season at this point. In the event the season does occur, Shene said it’s vital for spring athletes to do whatever they can to try to stay in shape.

“Student athletes were encouraged to remain active in light of their inability to practice as teams or have access to a gym,” she said. “Depending on the sport involved, it’s probable that some athletes will have less of an ability to maintain season ready condition (i.e. runners can do independent workouts, whereas team sport athletes will have unique hurdles as they can not be in groups at this time).”

If the spring season were to be played, the PIAA, as well as District 10 and each individual school district, will have to weigh how many contests to schedule in a shortened season window. One thing Shene hopes they will take into consideration is the potential for an increased number of injuries.

“My greatest concern IF we are able to play the spring season would be the number of events scheduled in such a compacted time frame,” she said. “Overuse injuries will be a reality for baseball, softball and tennis players completing several games in a week and over such a short period of time.”

It’s not just the local high school athletes dealing with this issue either. College athletics have been shut down for the spring, leaving some of those players to finish their recovery at home.

“Just (last) Thursday I started to return to throw and work out my upper body,” Canisius freshman and former Warren baseball standout Aidan Morrison said.

Morrison is still rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery and wasn’t going to be ready to play this season. Still, the sudden cancellation of the spring season left him in the unenviable situation of trying to get himself back in game shape without his teammates.

“I have the essentials for my rehab at home now,” he said. “Our coaches have sent us our dietary info along with our summer workouts.”

He’s optimistic the sudden change in scenery won’t impact his return to baseball.

“(The season being canceled) more than likely won’t (affect my return timetable). But with weight rooms and gyms across the country being closed, it makes it hard to train. I should be healthy for sure, but depending how long this goes, a lot of guys might not be physically ready for the fall.”

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