Pain verses discomfort is a consideration that’s rarely understood by youngsters. The interpretation of the very word pain or the word discomfort should be thoroughly understood by all concerned – especially parents. Parents are the enforcers of health management at home and seeing to it that their youngster is truthful about how they feel prior to and after a practice session and game.
Usually –but not always, pain is specific to a point in the body. Pain in the front part of the shoulder where the collarbone meets the shoulder for example. Discomfort is usually associated with an entire area of the body, like how the legs feel after a long run. So, discomfort should be expected- pain should not. Discomfort is usually after a physical workout and a hot shower, a rub down and relaxing normally does the trick. Pain on the other hand is the body’s way of saying its hurt – big difference.
However, sometimes the differences between pain and discomfort may not be as simple as my example above. Shoulder injuries and tendon injuries may not present themselves at the moment - but during the night a youngster can be jolted out of sound sleep by pain the deep parts of the shoulder and arm. Another example, a ball is hit straight back at a player and is deflected off a glove but the ball catches the player on the corner of the forehead. Now that hurts! But after a while, rubbing it a bit and some ice settles the pain down to a manageable period of discomfort. Later on that youngster’s getting headaches and every once in a while spells of nauseous and dizziness. At this point discomfort has a totally new meaning. Our situation here is a bit extreme, I know, but not that extreme when we see a more common accident like getting hit with a pitched ball while at bat. Getting dinged in the helmet, or nailed in the shoulder or back is not fun. Pain here we come!
From a coaching standpoint, should a youngster be left in a game in either event? “A judgment call” is usually the first response, but I’d be very careful using that approach. For example, a pitcher gets hit on the glove side elbow by a wild pitch and one would think that because the hit wasn’t on the pitching elbow, no affect would be passed on. Not so. The body has a way of shifting certain demands to other parts of the body to
compensate for the smallest alterations in what its use to doing. Add to this the uncertain follow up after the injury – which is totally out of your hands, puts a lot of “if and maybes” in your court as a coach.
What usually tugs at a coach in these situations is, how will this affect my game plan – don’t go there.
The subject of dealing with injuries and defining pain verses discomfort is not easy, and rightfully so. We’re talking about a youngster who places a lot of trust in our ability as coaches to know right from wrong and dispensing said same with our actions not just with our good intentions.