By Megan O’Connor – [email protected]

The road to recovery can be long and exhasting. For people with injuries, putting one foot in front of the other can be one of the most difficult tasks—especially if the injuries aren’t visible to those around them.

Seniors Dylan Jackson, Ethan Freer and Liz Moline are testament to what it means to live with a life altering injury. Shifting from the life of a collegiate athelte, these students embody what it means to overcome adversity.

Dylan Jackson

With most physical activity, there is a risk of injury. Some students have experienced injuries so severe their athletic careers are compromised.

Jackson played for the SJU’s football team his first years of college. During the spring of his sophomore year, Jackson experienced a serious back injury that required surgery and compromised his ability to
continue playing.

Not only did his injury impact his athletic capabilities, it impacted his everyday life as a college student.

On top of being a driven student, Jackson worked to manage the discomfort and challenge his injury brought him each day.

During the spring semester of his junior year, Jackson reinjured his back so severely that he could no longer play for the Johnnies.

After Jackson’s injury stole his ability to play football, he stopped identifiying as a football player.

The time it took for him to recover was significant.

“A person can recover from a physical injury, however, they can’t get back the time they lost to it,” Jackson said.

Although he misses football, Jackson has been making the most of his time recovering.

He is currently preparing to study medicine and his experience with an injury has allowed him to gain first-hand experience as a medical patient.

Ethan Freer

Similarly to Jackson, Freer played basketball for the SJU his first-year as a Johnnie.

On his 20th birthday, the state of Freer’s back changed for the worse. He was playing a pick up basketball game with friends and ended the day in agonizing pain.

With his sophomore season for the Johnnies about to start, Freer soon learned he needed back surgery to correct the two herniated discs and a pinched nerve in his lower back.

Freer stayed on the basketball team while receiving physical therapy post-surgery. But after he returned to the court he couldn’t help but notice changes in his physical performance.

“Basketball was what I wanted to do—it was my niche,” Freer said.

Freer left the basketball team early in the season his junior year—a challenging decision because he had been involved in organized sports since he was 5-years-old.

Now, two years post-surgery, Freer still deals with the pain of his surgery and living a normal day-to-day life—even if it’s not visible to his peers.

He instead, has found a new, different way to invest his engery. He is pursuing a career in physical therapy where he can help others overcome their physical challenes.

“This has been an opportunity for me to grow and to create a new version of myself,” Freer said.

Liz Moline

Since she was young Moline has trained as a swimmer, often practicing over 20 hours per week.

In high school, she developed a rib and thoracic spine dysfunction that took over three years to heal.

When Moline began her junior year at St. Ben’s she was finally healthy enough to swim and joined the St. Ben’s swim team.

Around midseason, Moline’s injury worsened and she was told, by doctors, she could no longer compete with the swim team.

The most difficult part of her experience was putting swim training aside.

To stay involved in the sport, Moline now manages the Blazer swim team and also coaches a swim club in St. Cloud. She has found a passion for helping others reach their goals.

“Being able to coach has helped me cope the most,” Moline said. “I get to be a part of my swimmers’ successes, which has been just as, or even more fulfilling than my own accomplishments in the sport.”

Jackson, Freer and Moline have each found constructive ways to cope with their lifestyle changes, despite the challenges they have faced. In the case of these students, injury has led to greater understanding.

Photo credit: RACHEL KETZ • [email protected]