Student-athletes recount their personal struggles with injuries leading to their desire to study athletic training at Bethel University.
By Godfrey Mpetey | Sports Reporter
Zach Eenhuis patiently waits along the sidelines of the Bethel football practice field. A year ago, Eenhuis played linebacker for the Royals. Featured in all games, he finished fourth in tackles among all defensive players. A year later, Eenhuis holsters green Gatorade bottles and sports a training kit as he visualizes himself in pads.
Eenhuis began feeling discomfort in his lower back. It was not until a doctor’s appointment where they discovered a herniated disc, an injury that required surgery. For the remainder of the season, he faced the pain and finished his sophomore year on the team. But after the surgery, when he should have been getting better, the pain worsened.
I want to be able to not only help athletes or other patients to rehab and return to normal living, but to also help them mentally and emotionally as I am working with them. Zach Eenhuis
“Once I started getting back into workouts after my back surgery, I started having bad hip pain. Ultimately, I had surgery on a torn labrum and impingement in my right hip,” Eenhuis said.
An additional setback resulted in Eenhuis forgoing his junior season of football. Eenhuis recounts experiencing bouts of depression and being in constant pain.
“Even though the pain was terrible, it was way more of a mental battle” he said addressing his bouts of injuries. “I became depressed because I couldn’t get away from the pain.”
Outside of sports, Eenhuis majors in athletic training. His gap year from football led to Eenhuis focusing on his career. His desire to pursue athletics was not only grounded in wanting to be around sports, but in his desire to help rehabilitate athletes as well.
“I want to be able to not only help athletes or other patients to rehab and return to normal living, but to also help them mentally and emotionally as I am working with them,” Eenhuis said.
Director of athletic training services Justin Byers shares a similar story to Eenhuis. Byers tore his ACL as an athlete at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, mentally devastating Byers as he entered his senior year.
“I wish I knew then what I know now about the human body” Byers said. “(All the information) goes together, the people that are willing to do the work during rehab, pre-hab, strengthening and conditioning etc put themselves in the best position to be successful on the field.”
Byers wanted to enter the medical field, studying sports medicine was the ideal combination of his passions. Though he enjoys the teams and relationships he has built, Byers sees athletic training as a blessing and a curse. Byers compared the injury he experienced to a student-athlete.
“(Injuries are the) curse of this job, being the one that has to look in the eyes of that guy and tell them the last thing they want to hear,” Byers said. “But the blessing is our hope in a King that cares enough about that knee to teach patience and perseverance and determination and resolve in the worst of circumstances”