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The Injury That Changed Everything

Share your story series: Injury & Identity


“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

 

My name is Adriana "Stretch" Ramirez & this is my story

Former College Basketball Player and Track and Field Athlete


Ever since I was young, I've been immersed in sports. I was always that tomboy, never the girly girl in skirts and curls. My go-to style was a ponytail, and I had my fair share of scraped knees, hands, and arms due to my constant engagement in sports. People often looked up to me, foreseeing a bright athletic future. In college, I pursued basketball and track for all four years, an experience beyond my wildest dreams, as sports took me across the globe, allowing me to compete in Brazil and Germany.

Then came my senior year, when a lower back injury threatened to derail everything. Unfortunately, my out-of-state insurance wouldn't cover my condition, leaving me unaware of the fracture. For three and a half months, I was confined to a state of profound depression. I couldn't walk, sit, or stand, and my core strength had disappeared entirely. Given my height at 6'1", this was a significant challenge. I lost weight, stopped eating, and lost interest in my sport.


My own team knew of my injury but didn't realize how severe it was. They started to talk behind my back saying I no longer cared about basketball and only cared about my then boyfriend. Saying I never showed up to practices or the games anymore but that was because I couldn't physically withstand being there without crying due to the pain I was in. There were times when all I had to watch our home games laying down on the bleachers. Sitting or standing was out of the question. Everyone asked if I was ok but they never asked what they could do for me.


At some point, I stopped caring about what my teammates thought, as I needed to focus on myself. I contemplated quitting basketball to salvage my track season. Thousands of miles from home, my parents were unaware of the severity of my injury, and my boyfriend at the time became my lifeline, helping me with everyday tasks. I will forever be grateful for that.


After the basketball season, I transitioned into track, but I could only participate in a single event, instead of my usual three. Although I performed well, I never fully recovered to my pre-injury self.

After graduating, I sought medical help to uncover the extent of my back injury. An MRI and an x-ray revealed the fracture. Sports was my identity, and I couldn't imagine a life without it. Realizing the severity of my injury, I embarked on a journey to improve my physical and mental health.


Now, four years have passed, and my back injury has worsened, potentially requiring surgery. Simple activities like jumping cause pain.Throughout my life I've done everything right. I've done all the exercises to get strong. I've done all the rehab and physical therapy to make sure my body was physically able to withstand the impact sports had on my body over the years. But now that I am 26 and having to go through all this really makes me rethink my life and how much people relied on me sport-wise to be good and to excel at my sports. And now I can't really do anything physically with my body because of how much sport has taken a toll on me.


No one ever talks about the mental and emotional state you are going through when you're playing a sport when you're at your best and when you're at your lowest it's usually just swept aside and not talked about and that's where people need to really help out those athletes because it's the most depressing place to be mentally.


Now I'm a high school basketball and track and field coach and it's fun being able to help the younger generation with their sports but it's also deep down really depressing because there's no way I'm able to get back to how I was athletic-wise. Internships and jobs weren't viable due to my sports commitment, and the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated my job search. I love where I'm at but I wish I didn't focus the majority of my life on sports because it's taken away a lot of opportunities for me to figure out what I want to do career-wise. Now I feel like I'm way behind everyone else because of my athletic career.

There are days when I wish I could go back and change how everything went but then I look back at all the opportunities I would have missed out on and I don't think I would have changed anything about the path I went down.


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