“Did you hear about Deep? He passed away yesterday.”
The voice of my friend, shaken and full of grief, tumbled out of the phone. I didn’t know how to react — I was in complete shock.
“Joshua, Deep passed away yesterday,” he repeated. I immediately hung up the receiver and called another close friend. His sobs confirmed my greatest fear to be true.
Deep Dogra was playing field hockey when he received a blow to the back of the head and died on impact. He was only 16 years old. His lifelong dream was to one day play professionally. We had all spoken to Deep just a fortnight prior to the incident. He had been telling us how he couldn’t wait to be back home.
Like Deep, every talented young athlete literally puts their life on their line on a daily basis: early morning practices, hours at the gym, brutal conditioning, endless drills. Yet, all it takes is one unfortunate incident to bring some of the most promising sporting careers to an end. Boston College safety Wes Davis is living testimony to this fact.
According to the U.S. National Institute of Health, approximately 38 million individuals under 18 are involved in organized sports. Safe Kids USA reports that one in 10 of these athletes requires medical attention due to a sports-related injury. That’s in the U.S. alone.
Today, kids are being recruited by professional teams at unimaginable ages. Current EPL Champions, Chelsea FC, reportedly acquired the services of wonder kid, Michael Gyasi, age 11. It’s a dream come true, but one could only imagine the stress, both physical and mental, that lie ahead for the young prodigy.
Using the best training gear and safety equipment is not enough these days, as the concept of contact sports is quickly morphing into injury sports. What’s worse, a large majority of sportsmen take pride in this fact.
Soccer fans surely remember Nigel De Jong’s ghastly tackle against Xabi Alonso during the FIFA World Cup Finals. He was given a yellow card for a maneuver that looked like something straight out of a Jackie Chan movie. Yet Alonso wasn’t the first to fall prey to De Jong — just ask Stuart Holden and Ben Afra.
It is said that apart from sport injuries, there is substantial damage done by the athletes themselves. No, I’m not talking about drugs. It’s called overuse. Think of it this way: you’re a 10-year-old baseball prodigy who will hit the ball out of the park 8 of 10 times at bat. Pretty soon you get good enough to play with the 14-year-olds in addition to the other 10-year-olds. Next thing you know, you’re playing with the 16-year-olds, too. What coaches need to understand is that kids, no matter how brilliantly talented, need to be given enough time for their bodies to grow into a sport.
Sports stars go thought immense pressure to perform — a fact that the fans tend to take for granted. It could lead to depression and sometimes, even the sportsperson taking his own life.
While various organizations are taking the initiative to counter sport injuries or give relief to those who’ve succumbed to injury, the fact remains that sometimes, it’s a little too late and there’s not much that can be done. A few may be lucky enough to have their lives restored thanks to proper care and treatment. However, the youth at college and high school levels may be a little less fortunate.
So what happens if you’re on the receiving end of a life-altering sports injury? What happens to all the blood, sweat, and tears that you’ve put in, in the hope that one day kids will be collecting baseball cards with your name on it?
Play the game with all your heart and soul. Just don’t lose your life doing so.
This article is dedicated to Deep Dogra who would no doubt be making headlines as the greatest hockey player to ever play the game if he were still with us today.
Photo by Monica’s Dad