My Journey to Medical Retirement: Part I
While retirement is a universal ending faced by all collegiate athletes, it’s often planned. Mine was far from it. I continue to get a lot of questions about my decision to medically retire and I’ve sat with many friends debating what seems like the most difficult decision of their lives.
I figured it was time to share some of my story on what ultimately led me to make this decision in July 2021. I think it’s important to share the hard parts just as much as the good parts. These memoir-type posts will be heavy, hopeful, and everything in between. I hope these serve the audience who can benefit most: the newly retired athlete, the unexpectedly retired athlete, the athlete who is going through the grief and loss that comes with planned or unplanned retirement, the athlete who is unsure if they should medically retire...
Without further delay, here is: My Journey to Medical Retirement.
Part I: The Weight of Weight
“If you lose any more weight you won’t be able to compete.” Those words sit, stagnant in the examination room despite the cold air pumping through the ceiling vents. I look down at my fresh pair of team-issued trainers hugging my feet, unable to look her in the eyes. My gaze moves to my clammy hands where my fingers are fidgeting, clearly exposing my discomfort. My heart rate is higher than it was at practice this morning.
Our story begins in the sports medicine department in the Burton Family Football Complex. It’s 2018 and I’m 18 years old. I’ve just arrived with the other four freshmen to check off yet another box on our never-ending to-do list for the day. I have a screenshot of our schedule saved as my lock screen wallpaper just to keep it straight.
As we eat breakfast, there is a synchronous “ding.” We’ve gotten a GroupMe message from our, understandably, irritated athletic trainer telling us we are late. I am well aware. Despite this, I was not about to sound like an anxious, know-it-all on my first day on campus in front of my new teammates.
Upon arrival, we rush to fill out forms, get our vitals, and wait our turn to meet with the team doctor. Some take longer than others and as I sit there waiting my turn, I wonder how long my appointment will take and what there is to even talk about. I already had a physical back home to clear me for training and competition.
My thoughts are interrupted by a knock on the door. A young man comes in and takes some background information. Upon telling him that I gained 5 lbs. over the summer, he responds, “Wow, you must have been really small.”
Perplexed by his rash comment and knowing I only gained that weight after my parents gave me an ultimatum: get your period or you can’t run, I am caught off guard. Before I can even respond, he leaves, telling me the doctor will be in shortly.
Before I know it, there is another knock on the door. This time, a woman’s voice. After answering the same questions for what seems like the millionth time, she informs me I’ll be seeing the sports dietitian for weekly appointments and weigh-ins, finishing with, “If you lose any more weight you won’t be able to compete.”