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Playing Hurt

RECENTLY I READ ABOUT a professional hockey player who is a star of the NHL team in the metro area near where I live. The measure of this man's stature as a hockey player was not his salary, number of goals scored, or minutes on the ice. Rather, the local sports-writer nominated him for greatness because of his ability to "play hurt."

Consider the symptoms of this athlete after receiving a hard check in the first period of play in a recent hockey game: He couldn't take a deep breath, he had bad bruises on his torso, and his shoulder and rib cage felt as though they had been through a meat grinder. His own description of his injuries made me cringe: "I couldn't breathe. It was lucky my head didn't land in the boards. I would have been dead, almost."

He was finished for the rest of that game.

Now consider the prognosis for this athlete: he was expected to return to the lineup after missing one game. Two, at most. To athletes, playing hurt is a badge of honor, reflecting the measure of their ...

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