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Dr. Williams for U.S. News & World Report: Should Athletes Play Through Pain?


THE “GLADIATOR” mentality throughout sports history has been widely celebrated and glorified. For avid sports fans such as myself, we can remember those seemingly impossible performances by such revered modern-day warriors as the late, great Kobe Bryant, shooting and making two free throws after tearing his Achilles.

While every performance and memory is unique, we've all likely seen and can recount some version of it: The athlete has trained extensively and exhaustively for this event, culminating in an ultimate “battle,” during which he or she sustains an injury. We, the spectators, watch in awe as the athlete powers through the pain to emerge the victor and ultimate champion. There are countless movies with this premise, and some variation of it still occurs today. But at what ultimate cost? And how does an athlete know when it’s “worth” the risk to play through pain or when it’s best, safest or career-saving to pull back? The answers are nuanced and can depend on various factors, but the risk of playing through pain or injury is high.

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