College sports are widely recognized as requiring incredible mental and physical demand from their athletes. During competition season, athletes sacrifice a lot of time to commit to the rigorous training and game schedules. Unfortunately, the toll that constant physical exertion takes on the body can result in injury, and while there is widespread acknowledgement of the risks posed by sports, people need to better understand the extent to which a sporting injury can affect an athlete’s career and lifestyle.
In order to help shed light on the lesser-known mental and physical impacts of sports-related injuries on student athletes, current Drew student-athlete David Hoyt (’24) took the time to discuss his personal experience with sports injuries and the process of recovering and returning to sports after enduring a serious injury. A goalie for the men’s soccer team since his freshman year, Hoyt was encumbered for much of the Fall 2021 season by a badly strained hamstring.
“I ended up missing the first three or four weeks of the season, but I got to start in about six or seven games after that,” Hoyt said. Due to the nature of his injury, Hoyt wound up re-pulling his hamstring in one of these games, which resulted in him being out for the final month of the season.
When asked if he had to wait for the injury to heal completely before he could return to soccer or if he could start cautiously training again after small improvements, Hoyt described how trying to rush the recovery process ultimately led to him re-injuring his hamstring. “The first time I hurt it, I tried to get back [to soccer] as soon as possible, but that kept tweaking it,” he said. Hoyt further explained that each time he tweaked his leg, it would set him back another week, until eventually he was forced to sit out until the injury fully healed.
A year later, Hoyt’s injury still causes him trouble when immersed in the soccer season. “I have to make sure I’m doing a good warm up and being careful not to go into anything cold, and my durability is not as good,” Hoyt said. He explained that as a result of overcompensating for his injury, his muscles become sore and tight much more easily. It took a few weeks into the Fall 2022 season for Hoyt to finally stop feeling such a strong toll on his body.
Hoyt also shared some of the mental effects of his injury, emphasizing the added stress his injury caused as he was beginning to return to soccer. “Last year I had a big mental block because I was constantly trying to avoid hurting [my leg] and constantly thinking about ‘if I stretch a certain way, will it hurt,’ et cetera,” said the goalkeeper. Hoyt noted that he had to focus on recovering from his injury not just physically, but also mentally, as the mental and emotional stress from such an injury can impact athletes’ self-image and their approach to sports.
Thankfully, Hoyt has been able to fully recover from his injury and has returned to playing soccer. He mentioned that the injury is mostly out of his mind.