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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Canada’s Christine Sinclair sets an example of courage on the field

Medical specialists have quite rightly grown increasingly concerned in recent years about the rise in concussion-related injuries in sports, from the professional ranks on through to the youth sports arena.

We know more about injuries, concussions and proper precautions and treatment than we did in previous generations, thankfully. But many sports are played with such intensity (sometimes with bigger-than-ever-before athletes) and at such fast speeds that injuries are bound to occur.

Athletes—and coaches and trainers along with parents, at the youth level—have to be aware and be vigilant, for sure.

That said, people still seem to love the sports stories when an athlete fights through pain and returns to the field of play—whether it’s a baseball diamond, a basketball court or in hockey, the ice.

The recent exploits of Canadian national women’s team captain Christine Sinclair has set the bar pretty high for athletes fighting through physical adversity. After having her nose re-located by an opponents’ flying elbow in the opening game of the ongoing Women’s World Cup, the Canadian international returned to score a brilliant goal—the highlight of the early going in the event that is played out on the biggest stage there is for women’s soccer.

There are many great stories (true stories) of sporting legends who left their mark in part because of their courageous efforts, returning to battle after a serious injury. Examples?

Willis Reed played essentially on one leg in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals against the LA Lakers. (After being unable to even warm up, he limped onto the court just before game time). Then there was Kirk Gibson of the Dodgers hitting a game-winning pinch-hit home run in the 1988 World Series when he could barely stand up, much less run, because he was in so much pain.

I could cite many other examples, but Sinclair’s heroics in a losing cause will obviously be remembered for a long, long time to come and will rank right up there with the exploits of other great athletes before her. (It may also dispel the notion that women’s sports somehow don’t measure up to what “the men” can do…)

The message for young people is not to play when you are at medical risk. Rather, it is that, when things get tough (and that can mean a lot of things in life and in sports), how will you react?

Will you get back up after being knocked down and keep plugging, keep working, keeping believing in yourself?

Or will you walk away, let discouragement take over and maybe even quit—on an opportunity, on teammates or possibly even yourself.

Those that keep fighting and believing in themselves have a bright future. Sinclair’s on-field example should prove a bit of extra inspiration for many of us, young and old.