Injuries have been a problem for both the women's soccer and basketball teams at University of Richmond this year.
In the fall, the women's soccer team lost three key players to major injuries, all but dismantling its hopes at a successful season and leaving athletes with uncertain futures.
"I think we do an excellent job here at Richmond of taking our time and making sure the kid gets back safely," soccer coach Peter Albright said. "But once they are completely ready physically, oftentimes there is a physiological component that's even tougher to overcome."
Junior Drika Bianchin tore her anterior crucial ligament for the second time in her Richmond soccer career early in the season, just a few weeks after freshman Meaghan Carrigan also tore her ACL in preseason training.
Albright has seen more than 20 of his players suffer some sort of ACL injury in his 18 years at Richmond, he said.
"You get cleared medically after anywhere from seven to 10 months usually," Albright said. "But I think in many cases it takes up to two years to come back fully."
In their fall season, the Spiders also saw seven different players suffer concussions, Albright said.
All-American forward Becca Wann was one of the seven. After suffering an early-season concussion, one of many in her athletic career, Wann has yet to play in another game for the Spiders.
Wann, a two-sport athlete at Richmond, missed the rest of the soccer season and will not suit up for the women's basketball team this season either.
The women's basketball team learned before the start of the season that they would be without Wann and junior Amber Battle, who was ruled medically disqualified, basketball coach Michael Shafer said.
Both players have still participated limitedly at team practices and remained involved in all team activities, Shafer said.
Now, in an important stretch of the season, the Spiders have also seen season-ending injuries to junior Liz Brown (back fracture) and freshman standout Olivia Healy (knee injury).
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"When we have an injury I want to know what could we have done," Shafer said. "Is there something we could have done? And a lot of the times there's just not."
Healy leads the team in points per game (12.3), shot attempts (217) and steals (42). She was coming off a career-high 22 points and nine rebounds before getting injured.
Perhaps no one knows overcoming injury better than redshirt-junior forward Genevieve Okoro. Okoro played in six games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
"I let [Healy] know that even though she's feeling down, and getting better seems so far away, she doesn't have to look far to see that there really is light at the end of the tunnel," Okoro said.
Okoro is an example of a female athlete who was able to make it back from a serious injury. She has not missed a game this season and averages 11.8 points and eight rebounds per contest.
Shafer attributed a rise in injuries in recent years as being related to specialization. Children choose one sport at an early age and stick to it, instead of playing all different sports throughout their childhood, Shafer said.
"When I was growing up, and even before me, you played every sport," Shafer said. "So consequently you didn't have muscle fatigue, you didn't have wear and tear on certain parts of your body because they were constantly changing. ... It seems to be logical that maybe we are specializing too soon."
Albright agrees with Shafer and has even seen research that proves multisport athletes tend to stay healthier, he said.
"I deliberately look for kids that play multiple sports in high school because I think it's really good for you," Albright said.
Both coaches said they recognize that extensive injuries have hurt their teams' performance but they remain determined to keep their players safe and continue to coach with what they have.
"It takes an incredible toll on the team when you're losing players," Albright said. "There just isn't the depth to overcome that and I really empathize with Coach Shafer because no one is going to take it easy on you."
The women's soccer team finished 6-9-3 in the fall and the women's basketball team currently stands at 11-13.
Contact staff writer Oliver Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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