If you aren’t bruising, you’re losing

There they sit in a constant crouch, prepared to drop to their knees and take a baseball off the chest; prepared to get pummeled with foul balls on any exposed piece of skin, prepared to jump up and gun the ball down to second base to catch a runner stealing.

“The catching position definitely is the most physically demanding position and requires plenty of toughness and sheer will,” the starting catcher on the Staples Varsity baseball team Noah Yokoi ’16 said. “But if you do things the right way, you can definitely limit dangerous injuries.”

There are other positions that face similar risks, like soccer or field hockey goalies. Paradoxically, both of these positions are often considered undervalued.

Dr. Michael Medvecky, Associate Professor of the Department of Orthopaedics & Rehabilitation at the Yale University School of Medicine, interviewed via email, said direct impacts from the ball are the most common causes for injuries, along with head injuries if a player falls.

Mary Bennewitz ’15, Staples varsity girls’ soccer goalie, said that it is also relatively common for a goalie to break ribs when diving, and sometimes goalies run the risk of taking a cleat to the head.

“When I walk off the field, if I’m not covered in bruises from the day’s match, then I know that I didn’t give it my all,” Bennewitz said.

Despite suffering a concussion this year during a game, Noah Schwaeber ’16, Staples varsity boys’ soccer goalie, is on a different page than Bennewitz.

“I think it can be dangerous if you don’t have the right techniques as a goalkeeper,” Schwaeber said. “But if you know how to protect yourself and make saves at the same time, you can stop a lot of injuries from occurring.”

Medvecky said he    focuses on something more than just technique to avoid injury: equipment. From shin guards to masks to chest protectors, Medvecky says the right gear is essential for catchers — and the gear is only improving.

For instance, catchers’ masks today allow for optimal vision, with firm padding to prevent head injuries. Shin guards are now made of hard plastic pieces connected in a way that allow easy movement, along with padding on the insides to ease the pain on catchers’ knees when they drop to block a ball. Chest protectors have become more flexible, Medvecky said, and use padding to stop a ball’s momentum.

Ironically, as protective as it is, equipment can interfere, according to girls’ field hockey goalie Carolynn van Arsdale ’16.

“Because of my equipment, it is hard to see everything to the sides of me. This is a disadvantage because the opponent can aim at the places in the goal that are hard for me to see.” Van Arsdale was interviewed through a Facebook chat.

As hard as goalies and catchers work, and as much danger as they face, at times some feel as if they aren’t appreciated.

Sam Reach ’14, a soccer fan, explained why goalies deserve praise.

“In high school soccer, goalies are extremely important,” Reach said. They’re underrated, he continued, “because oftentimes defenses aren’t as good, and goalies are called upon to carry their team,” Reach said.

Field hockey goalie van Arsdale beats herself up when she makes mistakes, in fact, she said. It’s important for her to remember to keep her head up, she said.

“Staying positive is the key to being successful as a goalie, not just in field hockey, but in every sport.”

Familiarity with sports should naturally lead fans to appreciate catchers, according to Justin Gallanty ’14, captain and pitcher of the varsity baseball team.

“Everyone who knows about the game of baseball understands and appreciates the importance of a good catcher to a team,” Gallanty said.