Battling Back

Aug. 3, 2010

Any athlete who has had a season shortened by injury knows how devastating it can be, both physically and emotionally.


For a trio of current and former George Washington student-athletes, multiple injuries have cost them more than one season during their limited time in Foggy Bottom.

GW's Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Chris Hennelly says his department handles student-athletes with multiple surgeries "at least once a year."

"The odds of coming back from a knee surgery, such as a first ACL tear, are very good, but when you get into multiple surgeries, especially on the same knee, it becomes more difficult," said Mr. Hennelly. "Not only do those student-athletes have to endure an injury and rehab, but they also miss years of development in their sport. Our department's goal is to be all encompassing, to not only treat the body, but prepare the mind for rehab and a shift in priority away from sport to other aspects of being a student at GW."

Dr. Amanda Visek, Assistant Professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology at GW, adds that "for anyone who devotes a significant part of their life to sport, such as a Division I student-athlete, there can be an identity struggle when they cannot perform because of injury."

Yet despite their struggles, the experiences the following three student-athletes have endured have opened doors, created new perspectives and shaped their goals and lives beyond their sport.

"For student-athletes who possess strong resiliency and coping skills, they are able to overcome injuries by developing new identities," said Dr. Visek. "Injuries challenge them to grow as leaders on the field, in the classroom, or in their relationships away from the game."

The following three student-athletes, along with countless others, rely on Mr. Hennelly, 15 other athletic training and strength and conditioning staff members, two GW Hospital-affiliated team physicians, as well as Dr. Visek and the university's exercise science and sport psychology programs to train, compete, and rehabilitate them.

The Sports Medicine and Strength and Conditioning departments also recently moved into fully renovated suites as part of Phase I of Charles E. Smith Center's $43 million transformation, furthering the University's and Athletic Department's commitment to the health and well-being of its more than 400 student-athletes.


Luke Wildy almost didn't make it to GW. The Crawley, England native's status as an incoming member of the men's soccer team was still in limbo leading up to the squad's preseason training in mid-August 2006.

Ivy Abiona entered GW in 2006 aspiring to what she thinks most incoming student-athletes aspire to - "go far and beyond expectations and reach high levels of success, to be remembered for doing something great."

Mia Breheny's athletic career was affected by injury even before she committed to play women's lacrosse at GW.



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