I slowly walked into the gym.
I was a little early for my 2 p.m. appointment with the men’s basketball coach, so I decided to watch the women’s team practice for a while. It had been two days since a humiliating beat-down at the hands of a conference opponent and I wanted to see how the young ladies were reacting.
Now you must understand, being a man approaching his mid-30s, 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, there aren’t many things that make me go “eeewwww!” And certainly, a group of college basketball players running up and down the court generally doesn’t fit into that category, aside from dodging a pair of sweaty socks that were thrown at me one day. But that is another story altogether.
Today, however, was different.
Standing on the sidelines was one of the starting guards still decked out in street clothes as her teammates pounded the hardwood under the scrutiny of their coach. You see, while the team took it on its proverbial chin the preceding Saturday, this young lady took it on the nose – literally. A sophomore, roughly 5-foot-8 and 100-and-nothing pounds dripping wet, this young lady plays much tougher than she looks. She is not afraid to take the ball to the basket among the bigger, stronger players, and has suffered a few injuries.
On Saturday, however, a trip to the backboard landed her in the hospital. As the team was hoping to claw back into the game shortly after halftime, this young lady crashed the boards looking for a rebound. All she found, however, was the heel of her teammates hand as it came crashing down across the bridge of her nose. After the 10-count, play was stopped to attend to the injury.
The coaches and trainers rushed to the court, as the young lady lay on her back clutching her face. Although I knew she had been hit in the nose, it was difficult to really tell what the injury was because there was not a drop of blood anywhere on the court.
She was helped off the court and taken to the training room where a doctor looked at her and diagnosed that she had indeed broken her nose.
Two days later, she stood on the edge of the court cheering her teammates as they worked. I walked across the gym floor to where she was standing. If I hadn’t known better I never would have guessed she had a broken nose. There was a little swelling, but very little bruising or discoloration. Her pettite glasses rested carefully on the bridge of her nose, giving her a rather studious look as she surveyed the court.
“Hey, girl,” I said as she turned toward me. “Way to take a punch.”
She smiled as we began to discuss the injury and her impending treatment. It turns out that she is going to be fitted for a face mask and then play the rest of the season. In her words, she wasn’t even going to miss a game. The coach, however, is going to wait for the doctor’s clearance before he allows her back on the court.
Due to the way her nose was broken, it was impossible for doctor to set it without minor surgery. However, if she plays the rest of the season the nose will heal itself slightly out of position, although no one would notice by looking at her.
She explained that after the season, the doctor will have to break her nose again and set it properly. This, of course, sent shudders down my spine, but she said she could handle it as long as they knock her out first.
As we continued our conversation I told her I was amazed at the lack of bruising and overall appearance. I've seen broken noses before and many times they are accompanied by a pair of black eyes.
“… And I can’t believe it didn’t bleed,” I said.
“I know,” she agreed. “The doctor looked at it and said there was definitely blood in there, but it had been stopped up.”
“That’s kind of weird,” I said, wondering how you stop a major nose bleed without even trying. I mean, I’ve woken up on dry winter mornings and have done little more than sit up in bed and my nose starts bleeding.
As I contemplated the strangeness of the situation and how the blood flow could collect without ever releasing, I wasn't really prepared for what she said next.
“Yeah,” she said. “But this morning I had a really big sneeze ……….