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Should You Play Through an Injury?

October 13, 2011

I think we were all really amazed when we saw Tony Romo come back into the game with San Francisco after he sustained an injury to lead the Cowboys to a comeback victory.

However, when we learned that Romo was playing with a cracked rib and deflated lung, no doubt our view of him skyrocketed.

Another player, this time in baseball, Mickey Mantle, always played in pain. He was always in agony. During a pinch hit in the World Series he got a hit and limped to first base, blood stains on his uniform from an abscessed infection in his hip.

But when we see players like Matt Holiday and Frucal who are out of playoff games because of pain in their finger or hands, we wonder why don’t they play through the pain.

In playoff games it’s crunch time, you’d think as players they’d want to be out there on the field working hard to help their team win. But it’s not as simply as that. Some injuries affect your performance more than others.

When You Shouldn’t Play with an Injury

Well, when it comes to deciding when you should play, it really comes down to your philosophy and your medical team’s philosophy. All injuries should be put into perspective and evaluated.

In my estimation, injuries where it’s no question that a player should come out are concussions, breaks and tears. Sometimes though an injury may cause you not to be able to do your job well, like in Holiday or Frucal’s case.

Even though they’re injuries may seem small compared to Romo or Mantle, what we don’t know if their injury limited their ability to hold a bat or even a glove. If that’s the case then if you put the out there they are just a liability, likely headed for an error.

If the injury is an ACL tear, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize you don’t play that player. He’s in agony and can hardly walk.

If we’re talking about a hamstring or quadriceps tear, the athlete’s ability to perform, cut back, in the case of a football player, is majorly hampered. He may be a straight up and down runner, but even then he’s play is not going to be factor because he’s not a threat.

Turf toe is another injury that can be mystifying to people because it seems like a simply injury an athelte could play through. That’s not the case because turf toe is caused by acute inflammation of the tendons on both the dorsal and plantar that swells the toe up. It’s near impossible to walk on. And if you’re a running back like Marshall Faulk was, limping is not going to help your team win any games.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.

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