After weeks of trying to battle back from a left ankle injury, Morgan Hamm finally had to face the reality of disability. Even with multiple steroid injections, his ankle was just too painful to compete successfully. Rather than hamper the team, Hamm decided to bow his head in resignation. His injured ankle created a new reality that was just too much to overcome.
Accepting a new reality is difficult for anyone, athlete or not. Despite all the new technologies like surgical implants, injections, and medications, a painful condition can still create limitations in physical capabilities. Hamm was no longer able to flip or swing his weight through the air gracefully. Likewise, other people face disabilities that cause even the simplest tasks of daily living to become impossible. One can choose to continue life as usual. But, sometimes a change of course is necessary because, like a dam, pain can block the way. This real world choice of adaptation is sometimes the only choice to continue moving downstream and continue living comfortably.
Adaptation is also called being smarter than the problem. Unfortunately, injuries are like impenetrable barriers and happen to even the best of athletes like Morgan Hamm. By resigning his position on the 2008 USA Olympics Gymnastics Team, Hamm opened a doorway for another athlete to take his place. He also opened his own doorway to continue his recovery. That is a tough door to open because I am sure his competitive spirit wanted him to keep hitting the wall. Smartly, Morgan Hamm recognized his need to change course and adapt to his new reality.
Every day, people are facing tough choices of doing a painful activity or finding an alternative way. Another gymnast, Chellsie Memmel, may be faced with that same choice as the competition approaches. She has struggled back from a shoulder injury and just injured her right ankle. As the USA Gymnastics Team struggles with evolving realities from injuries, we should all access the barriers that face us and discover alternative routes. Adapt or die, this is the only constant in this harsh real world. Let’s thank Morgan Hamm for showing the courage to open the doors of change.