The fragility of professional sport

Gordon Hayward grimaces in pain after his gruesome ankle injury. Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Gordon Hayward grimaces in pain after his gruesome ankle injury. Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Sometimes I find myself yelling at the TV. This usually coincides with some kind of sporting event playing out before me.

I found myself in this situation last Wednesday, as my beloved Boston Celtics opened the NBA season against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Celtics had a major restructure over their offseason, returning only four players from a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals the year before.

Included in this overhaul was the free agent signing of Gordon Hayward, and a trade for Kyrie Irving, both superstars at their former clubs.

It didn’t take long for me to get into the game. I was hollering at every bad decision, fuming at every missed shot, exasperated by every turnover. I must have been a delight for my neighbours.

But something happened six minutes into the game that put everything into perspective.

Hayward, formerly of the Utah Jazz, defected to the Celtics this year on a four year, $128 million deal.

The man was touted as the missing piece of the puzzle for the Celtics, the player that would see them into championship contention.

This man was fronting up for his debut for the Celtics, the most successful franchise in the league playing in one of the toughest markets in the United States.

Six-minutes into this game, he suffered a leg injury. A gruesome one. Fans were covering their eyes, the announcers were left in shock, and players and coaches were huddling together in support.

Just like that, Hayward’s season was over. This man that I had been expecting perfection from not two minutes before hand was now in the hands of medical staff.

Hayward has since been diagnosed with a fractured tibia and dislocated ankle. It’s an injury that will keep him from any competitive basketball for over six months.

Let’s face it though, Hayward will be fine in the long run.

He has a world class medical team working with him, and his rehab will be looked after by the best exercise physiologists in the world.

On a personal level, he’ll still earn $20 million this year, and he still has a guaranteed job for the next three years.

He also has the support of a worldwide community of basketball fans.

But for every Gordon Hayward of the world, there are 100 young guns who have their sporting hopes dashed by a serious injury.

I had a next-door neighbour in Melbourne with serious aspirations of playing elite Aussie Rules.

He played in the premier under 18s competition in Melbourne, and won a premiership with 2013 number one draft pick Tom Boyd.

Unfortunately, a badly broken arm already had scouts on the outer, and a series of foot and leg injuries since then have all but ended his AFL dreams.

As fans, we tend to forget the strain these athletes put on themselves to achieve what they do.

The stresses they put on their body, both on gameday and during mid-week training, are extreme.

And their careers are extremely short. If you’re still playing sport at an elite level beyond the age of 30, you’re doing very well.

Maybe it’s time for fans, myself especially, to remember this next time we’re ready to lambaste our sporting heroes.

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