Youth Sports: Risks vs. Rewards – Part 3

Part three of the Vancouver Sun’s four-part series on youth sports and injuries focused on a pair of athletes who were forced to quit the sports they loved in their teens due to career-ending injuries.

Figure skating, ballet and jazz class led to fatigue for Tamiko Musgrove. A busy schedule led her to both physical and mental pain.

More from Yvonne Zacharias.

Tamiko Musgrove was 15 when, while doing her short program at a figure-skating competition in the interior of B.C., she crashed to the ice and landed on her tailbone. She knew in an instant something was wrong; her legs had gone numb.

Operating on adrenalin, she scrambled to her feet and, miraculously, finished the program without full feeling in her legs.

She wanted to pull out of the competition without doing her long program, but her coach advised against it; she’d already withdrawn from a summer competition after getting her first inkling that something was wrong with her back.

“I knew something was not right and it wasn’t just a pulled muscle,” said Musgrove, now 36. “It just felt wrong. I noticed I didn’t have the strength that I used to when trying to land a jump. I would fall out of them a lot.”

She hesitated to mention anything because “you don’t want to admit weakness and you don’t want your competitors to know that you have an injury.”

She did, however, tell her coach and was sent to a sports doctor at UBC who ordered rest, then cleared her for competition.

So she found herself at the winter event where the fateful crash occurred. When she got home to Vancouver, her family doctor ordered an X-ray. Then came the dreadful diagnosis: At 15, she had spondylolisthesis, or vertebrae slippage, and stress fractures in her spine.

The doctor told her father, Paul, that if it were his daughter, she would not skate again. So Paul put a halt to his daughter’s budding career. She would never set foot on the ice again as a competitive skater.

Just like that, it was over.”

As for 20-year-old Athina Vazeos, her time playing water polo and her scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley was cut short due to right arm injury – thoracic outlet syndrome to be exact.

More from Yvonne Zacharias.

Vazeos says, “I couldn’t feel my arm.” Being part of an elite travelling team, she didn’t want to complain. She kept icing her arm. She tried massage therapy, physiotherapy and acupuncture.

“I did whatever I could to relieve some of the pain so I could play.”

Because water polo involves repeatedly raising your arm above your head, athletes are prone to this overuse injury. Through long arduous hours in the pool, they develop very big scalene muscles that block the blood flow in the arm. That is what happened to Vazeos. Whenever she lifts her right arm above her head she experiences a numbing pain, because the blood is not flowing through.”

Each story is truly unfortunate; two talented athletes whose participation in their respective sports came to a crashing halt because of some unlucky breaks and a battle with overuse injuries.

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