Mental toll: injuries of high level athletes at AV


Provided by DJ Van Fleet

DJ Van Fleet (’24) [in blue] takes a shot at goal during a tournament in Detroit last summer.

Luke Rathjen, Staff Writer

Athletes are constantly dealing with the physical and mental toll of injuries during their sports seasons. The hard work that many students put into playing sports can be halted at any moment if their bodies are exhausted. 

“It’s important to try and recover the best you can and as fast as you can. It definitely is tough mentally going to practice almost every day and not getting to go out and play with my team. I just have to keep my head forward and try my hardest to get back out there,” said DJ Van Fleet (‘24). 

Van Fleet was forced to get knee surgery after injuring his meniscus in practice in late March and will be sidelined for the rest of his AAA hockey season. AAA hockey is tough to make and it is the highest level of youth hockey in the country. It’s a huge adjustment for many athletes who train so often and have to now learn to sit back and recover and rest their bodies.

“I was going to San Jose for a two-hour practice almost every weekday with games on the weekends so the changes have definitely been noticed. I am just committing myself 100% to therapy and recovery so I can make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” said Van Fleet. 

The struggle of injuries can be best seen by those closest to you. Van Fleet’s little brother Derek Van Fleet who also plays hockey has seen his older brother’s pain as he is being sidelined at such a pivotal point in his hockey career.

“I feel pretty awful that he got such a serious injury right in the midst of his recruiting journey. He is such a great player that I don’t think it will affect his play when he gets back,” said Derek Van Fleet.

The physical toll that stacked-up injuries can put on athletes can also be a tough aspect to deal with. Basketball player Olivia Medinas (‘24) has torn both of her ACLs and has been forced to miss the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 basketball season.

“Tearing your ACL once is really bad for you so doing it twice was pretty scary and sad to hear. It made me feel like all the recovery and physical therapy after my tear was a waste of time,” said Medinas.

Having injuries for high school athletes above all stop the athlete from playing the sport they love and grew up playing and it restricts them from attaining the high school experience that they long for.

“[Getting] back-to-back injuries my sophomore and junior year were definitely not ideal. I feel like it took away from my high school experience, not being able to play basketball which was something I loved so much growing up,” said Medinas.