4B - The Michigan Daily - SportsMonday - November 10, 2003
C W r
i 3 y , y
Let's face it: Field hockey doesn't exactly cc
off as the roughest sport around. Many percei
as preppy, and in the United States, it's primar
women's game. The players use little protec
equipment, save a mouthguard and shigu
It has to be a cake sport; they're known to v
skirts, for heaven's sake.
Then again, it could be viewed as V11 stck-wi
ing, peak-performing athletes charging aboL
pitch the size of a football field. There's noth
but a flimsy jersey between them and their op
nents' 40-to-50-mile-per-hour shots, notl
ween a stick and their front teeth but a thin
ar of molded plastic.
is the latter perspective that best depicts
higan field hockey. The game is deceptively
~ious. The ancient sport was originally deemed
dangerous for women to play, and though
t perception is outdated, it is clearly one of the
st harzardcus games around. The Wolverines'
iries run the gamut from everyday aches and
ns to exploded discs and internal bleeding.
that follows are files of the Wolverines' journeys
)ugh their trying experiences as injured athletes:
By Megan Kolodgy Daily Sports Writer
While injuries are by definition painful, people involved with
the Michigan field hockey program agreed that hits to the face
are the most painful to behold. The head has a tendency to bleed
profusely, and the sight of blood gushing from a player's skull
can be unsettling for a coach, athlete or trainer.
"I think facial lacerations from the ball turn me off the most,"
Stephanie Johnson said. "Molly Powers, who graduated last year,
got hit in the face, and it opened up like it was a zipper."
Fast forward to 2003. The Wolverines are in Evanston work-
ing their way to a win against Northwestern. Freshman Mary
Fox, recovered from a broken toe, darted about the field in an
effort to make things happen for her team. Suddenly, a Wildcat
aimed and fired, and life changed for Fox.
"She hit the ball, and it was about seven yards away from me,
and it went straight to my temple," Fox said. "I blacked out, and
then everything got fuzzy." Fox amazingly walked off the field
and asked where her coach was, although she has no recollec-
tion of doing such.
The wound left a hole on the side of the forward's face. The
hole, though gruesome looking, was only the tip of the iceberg
as far as Fox's troubles were concerned. After she was trans-
ported to the nearby hospital with her father, Fox learned that
she was bleeding internally and would need surgery to remedy
"I couldn't do anything for a month because running would be
too jarring for my brain situation," she said. "And then for my face,
the broken bone situation - if I would fall, that would be bad."
The injury also hurt Fox off the field. She was forced to drop
her math class, which, for an engineering student, is certainly
"I found I couldn't do complicated math" she said. "I blanked
out; it was totally confusing. For at least three weeks, I was
struggling in every area I enjoyed or seemed easy to me."
Fox now wears a plastic mask to protect her face. Although
she says that it's uncomfortable and limits her peripheral vision,
Fox is back out on the field, hoping her face doesn't cause any
"My neurosurgeon said that I had the worst football head
injury that you could possibly have;' Fox said. "And since he
has never seen it in a field hockey case, he doesn't know what
the chances of me getting hit again are. If it were football ... I
This is a fate that Fox hopes to avoid. When asked if she'd
ever think of quitting, her succinct, definitive answer spoke vol-
umes of her dedication.
"No," Fox asserted. "Never."
The physical consequences of injuries are obvious, but
accompanying them is a bundle of emotions that occur
when a usually healthy athlete is forced to watch her team
from the sidelines. It would be easy to take a defeatist per-
spective in this scenario and ask, "Why me?"
The Wolverines who have encountered such setbacks,
however, maintain the positive attitude they know will
make the experience useful and expedite the healing
"(Coach) Marcia (Pankratz) always tries to motivate us
to be students of the game," Stephanie Johnson said, refer-
ring to the year she redshirted. "(I liked) being able to be a
supporter of the kids on the field as well as those off the
field. I started to be more in tune with people's attitudes
Traumatic experiences can also make athletic tasks that
were once seemingly innate more difficult. Since the ball
hit Mary Fox in the face, she's tempted to be a bit more
timid on the field.
"I'm really not as afraid of the ball as I thought I would
be," Fox said. "But there are times when someone who
can really hit the ball, like Kristi Gannon, is in front of
me, and has the ball and is about to shoot, and my first
instinct is to get out of the way."
The Wolverines persevere through trying times and are
eager to do whatever it takes to get them back in the game.
"I've only had to hold them back from going back out
there and playing," field hockey trainer Kim Hill said.
After years of wear and tear, it finally
happened. Current senior captain
Stephanie Johnson had spent a good por-
tion of her life working on perfecting her
game stance. But the quest for perfection
came at a price for the defender. At the
end of her freshman year, a genetic com-
ponent combined with everyday stresses
to create problems.
"Part of it was a ruptured disc;' John-
son said. "Actually, my mom had the same
problem that year, so I think part of it was
hereditary, and part of it was just the wear
and tear of the posture of the position."
Johnson discovered that she would need
surgery that summer.
"Essentially, they just went in with a
scope ... and just kind of cleaned up the
remnants of the disc" Johnson said. "It was
pretty invasive, but it wasn't too terrible.
They didn't have to re-create anything."
Little did Johnson know that this sur-
gery would eliminate her chances of
returning to the field during her sopho-
"They said I should be back to activity
in four to six weeks, and I was expecting
to be back to playing in four to six
weeks;" she said. "But ... I had additional
rehab to do. It took quite awhile to get my
conditioning back up and to build the
strength in my back to be able to hold that
But therapy was a walk in the park
comparedto Johnson's first day back at
"It was a kick in tlie butt,' she said. "You
can be in pretty decent shape and-go run
around the streets, but getting back in,
starting and stopping, is a totally different
story. And putting skills into it - it was a
process for sure. But it made me appreciate
getting back to peak performance level."
Today, Johnson is a standout defender,
and because her surgery and rehabilitation
were successful, she does not have to care
for her injury on a day-to-day basis.
According to Johnson, the injury provided
valuable experience for the training staff.
"Because of the experience with me,
and others who've had this problem, I
think the trainers ... have become a lot
more sensitive, more well versed, and a
little bit more well-trained in keeping
these injuries from becoming so extreme."
For Jessica Blake, injuries simply come with the territory. The Aus,
tralia native has dislocated both her thumbs in action.
"I had the stick in my hand, and the ball flew up and contacted
directly on my thumb and popped it out. The same thing happened to
my right hand."
Blake has grown accustomed to playing under these circumstances
and maintains that, on a global level, field hockey players are a tough
"I don't know why field hockey is like that, but around the world, I
can vouch for that, it is like that everywhere. You get hit, and you've
just got to keep going."
Blake believes that preventative procedures and vigilance about pain
help tremendously in remaining healthy throughout the season.
"Taking care of your body, Marcia (Pankratz) really stresses that,"
Blake said. "Make sure you know how you are feeling."