It takes a lot to be a student athlete. Aside from the everyday demands of keeping up with schoolwork, there are long hours in the weight room and at practice that have to be put in.
And no matter how hard any athlete works at his or her craft, there is always the one threat lurking in the shadows that can’t be prevented or prepared for — the injury bug.
As far as overcoming injuries go, no one knows the tough road better than Statesboro High School senior Ericka McDade. As a freshman, McDade burst onto the scene, garnering All-Region 2-AAAA honors. Poised to become a star, McDade’s summer was cut short when she suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
“When I got hurt for the first time, I was a little frustrated and angry,” McDade said. “I couldn’t wait to get back onto the court.”
After undergoing surgery to repair the torn ligament, McDade still had to endure months of therapy, causing her to miss her entire sophomore season. Last fall, more than 20 months after the last time she had suited up for the Lady Blue Devils, McDade returned to action.
Over the first month of the 2010-11 season, McDade started to get back into the flow, but just eight games into her return, she went down with another torn ACL — this time in her left knee.
“I was pretty broken up about it,” said McDade. “It tore me up. I honestly didn’t know if I wanted to keep playing. Luckily, our coaches kept encouraging me and got me to come back again.”
Once again, McDade found herself spending all of her time in physical therapy instead of in the middle of the action.
It took another surgery and eight more months of rebuilding strength, but now McDade is healthy once again as her senor season begins.
“It’s still a battle,” McDade said. “One leg will be sore, you try to put pressure on the other leg, then that one gets sore. It’s just something that I have to fight through.”
One of McDade’s biggest fans every time she gets into a game is SHS coach Jeff Seier, who has seen her through her high school career and through all of her ups and downs.
“It was really good to see Ericka back on the floor,” said Seier after the Devils' 63-33 victory over Claxton on Nov. 21. “She has had to overcome a lot. She was a big part of this team even when she couldn’t play and we’re sure glad to have her back out on the court.”
Of course, the worst thing about injuries is that they can happen at anytime, and even someone who has suffered through two major injuries could fall victim again. That’s an issue that McDade realizes, but keeps out of her mind.
For the time being, she is simply glad to be back in uniform and helping her team as she and her five fellow seniors look to cap off their final season at Statesboro in style.
“I just put (the injuries) behind me,” said McDade. “I can’t focus on that while I’m playing. I’m more focused on what I need to do to help my teammates.
“We want to go all the way this year. That’s what I’m thinking about.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.