Season-ending injuries plague many athletes every year. These injuries are not only difficult physically but also mentally and emotionally. Coping with injuries is a process that athletes go through when they suffer severe injuries. Landon Johnson, a junior wide receiver on the Northwestern Red Raider football team, recently experienced this process first-hand.
Entering their bye week, the football team enjoyed some time off and looked forward to having lighter practices. On Oct. 6, the team was participating in 7-on-7 drills when a pass was thrown intended for Johnson, who was running a post route. Johnson went up for the reception and when he came down, he landed right on his shoulder, breaking his collarbone.
“I went up for a pass completely normal for an everyday practice,” Johnson said. “And then [I] just dove up for the ball, came down, and fell straight on my shoulder…I knew pretty much that I had broken it, but it wasn’t that painful right away. I don’t know if I had adrenaline at the beginning, but I just walked off to the sideline because I knew something was broken.”
Johnson was not rushed to the emergency room or in need of immediate surgery. At the doctor’s appointment the next day, Johnson had some X-rays done and he learned that he had suffered a compound fracture of the clavicle.
The initial response from an athlete who has to go through an injury can be one of frustration. Not only is the athlete in physical pain, but they are now unable to participate in one of their favorite activities.
Freshman soccer player Lauren Ostdiek-Wille experienced this frustration last spring at the beginning of her high school senior soccer season. Ostdiek-Wille had worked her entire high school career to earn a starting spot her senior year as a mid-fielder. Her season was cut short when just ten minutes into the second game of the season she went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.
Before her injury, Ostdiek-Wille signed to play soccer at Northwestern. On top of not being able to play for the majority of her senior season, she knew her injury would also cause her to miss her first soccer season as a Red Raider.
“I had finally earned a starting spot on my high school team, and I was looking forward to playing college soccer,” Ostdiek-Wille said. “It was all just taken away. It was a huge bump in the road.”
Johnson experienced the same shock when he broke his collarbone.
“It was pretty devastating to hear that I most likely won’t play the rest of the season,” Johnson said. “I didn’t really expect to hear that. Even though I was pretty positive it was broken, once it was confirmed, I was pretty down for the first few days.”
Both athletes faced a long road of recovery. Ostdiek-Wille had to wait six months before being cleared to run on her knee again and Johnson’s collarbone is still in the process of healing over a month later. During their recovery, both athletes embraced different roles on their teams.
Johnson said he embraced the role of leader and encourager. He knew it was important to be there for the younger guys on the football team to push them to get better.
Ostdiek-Wille embraced a similar role of encouraging and finding ways to help in practice. Despite never stepping onto the soccer field as a player this year, she attended every practice and travelled to every game with the team. Ostdiek-Wille credits her coaches and teammates for making her feel as much a part of the team as active players.
Although their injuries caused them to face numerous challenges, Ostdiek-Wille said in a way, she is glad to have had this experience.
“I remember telling my mom that if I’m going to go through all of this I’m going to learn something from it,” Ostdiek-Wille said.
And she did.
“I have gained a whole new perspective about what it is like to be dependent on other people and the frustrations that come along with that,” Ostdiek-Wille said. “I learned to look at what positive can come from a bad situation.”
Both athletes look forward to next fall when they will hopefully be back to full health. Even though there is still a long journey to being fully recovered, both athletes agree the love of their sport and teammates is what will keep them going.