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PAIN AS PART OF THE GAME : Players Must Take Agony With Ecstasy


Sports are a last-second finger-tip catch in the end zone. A home run in the bottom of the ninth. A wedge of sprinters gasping and leaning toward the finish line. A downhill run on fresh-packed snow.

Sports are exhilaration, heartbreak, the maximized effort by the talented.

But sports are also a pain in the butt. And elbow. And knee. Not to mention wrist, ankle and hip.

Play any game long enough, no matter the conditions or your conditioning, and one thing is certain: You are bound to get hurt. The more physically demanding the sport, the greater the chance.

High school athletes are not immune. Look on the sidelines during any Friday night football game, and you're bound to see one or two players in casts or heavy bandages. Volleyball players wear a rainbow collage of bruises from diving on floors. Let a gymnast land awkwardly after a double somersault from the uneven bars, and . . . ouch.

Even a badminton shuttlecock, which can travel up to 110 m.p.h., can hurt if it hits in the right spot.

Despite tremendous strides in conditioning, technology, equipment, facilities and coaching, kids still go bump in the night.

"I like to think sports are less dangerous, but I don't know if anyone has proved that," said Dr. Craig Milhouse, medical director at Anaheim Memorial Sports Medicine. "There will be injuries, but I think in a lot of areas many are from overuse--where people practice too much and won't stop when they feel pain. They don't listen to their bodies.

"If it seems like we're seeing more injuries, it's only because we're looking for more and are more knowledgeable. The way we approach things with more trainers and more sports-trained physicians, we can identify an injury that a kid doesn't get back on the field with."

That, along with conventional and unconventional rehabilitation methods, has saved the seasons of two key Orange Country athletes.

Los Alamitos junior Kevin Feterik had earned the starting quarterback job, but broke his left (throwing) hand in the first half of the season opener against Kennedy. Feterik had been hurt before--breaking a finger and an elbow as a child--but never playing football, which he has played since he was 8.

"I was devastated; this was my first varsity game and first chance to prove myself," said Feterik, 17. "We were winning, and I wanted to finish. I thought I'd be out five to six weeks and my season was done. I was real down, although winning the game helped."

Disregarding an initial prognosis that would have sidelined him until league play began, Feterik sought the care of San Clemente therapist Benny Poda, who prescribed acupuncture, vitamin C, amino acids and herbs. Feterik did not get a hard plaster cast, opting instead for a soft plastic covering. He was back playing by Oct. 7 against Long Beach Millikan.

Feterik said the injury gave him a new sense of his vulnerability.

"All the time you hear about people getting hurt, but I never realized how lucky I was until that game. Now I'm not taking being healthy for granted. At any time you can be hurt. You still go 100%, but it made me realize you're not invincible."

Likewise, cross-country runner Jessica Corbin was expected to lead the Irvine girls' team to glory similar to last year's State Division I championship. But in late August, while attending a training camp, the junior began feeling pain in her left leg and hip.

"I don't know how it happened," said Corbin, 16. "My training was going so good--I was running, lifting weights, dieting. Everything was perfect. I had run 11 miles once, and averaged four to five miles a practice."

When Corbin was first examined, the diagnosis was a pinched nerve in her back triggering the pain. Later, it was discovered she had Pirifomis syndrome, in which the muscle pressures the sciatic nerve.

But before that, Corbin was nearly done in by her treatment. A large daily dose of ibuprofen was first prescribed, but it began tearing up Corbin's stomach, causing internal bleeding. Corbin continued to run, wondering why her performance was slipping; soon she had more serious problems: anemia, a throat-and-sinus virus and viral bronchitis.

Like Feterik, Corbin was worried her season was lost.

"What devastated me was coming down with the bronchitis," she said. "I could run with the hip irritation, the internal stuff, but I couldn't run with that. I came home from the trip to Stanford (Oct. 1), where we didn't do too well, and I was in tears. There were so many emotions; I wanted to run but I knew I couldn't. I knew my health comes before running, and it was now a health issue."

After being told not to run for a week and changing medication, Corbin--who finished fifth Saturday at the Orange County Championships at Irvine Regional Park--said she's recovered, at least mentally.

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