Nick Dingus, Sports Editor (Courtesy Photo/Mya Hudgins)
College athletes are a special brand of people. They balance not only their rigorous academic schedule, but an athletic schedule as well. Oftentimes their athletic schedule is far more rigorous than their academic schedule.
“I would spend four to five hours a day on athletics, and that doesn’t include any time I would have to spend in the training room,” Dean Vanvors, a sophomore football player said.
If you add that four or five hours on top of the three or four hours of homework students are expected to complete, student athletics comprise almost double the workload of a normal student.
In addition to the time that athletics takes up from students’ lives, there is also a physical toll on their bodies. For these athletes, the physical toll of their sport has been building for years. In some cases, the strain on their body catches up to them.
Mya Hudgins is a sophomore cross country runner at OBU who began running competitively in middle school.
“When I was in sixth grade, I played on a soccer team for my city,” she said.“It was a co-ed team, but I was the only girl. Every day before practice started, we all had to run a couple of laps around the field,” Hudgins said. “Not being a very good soccer player, this was my favorite part of practice because I would beat all the boys during these laps. I thought it was funny and I made it my mission to beat them every time. This is what sparked my passion for running,” Hudgins said.
This caused her to try out for her middle school track team, and continue on to run for her high school.
“In high school I ran cross country and track and field, setting the school record in the 5K, mile, and two mile race,” Hudgins said.
Her success led her to OBU where she continued to run cross country. However, during her freshman season, she began to experience pain in her back.
“I had been having back pain since my senior year of high school, but it was never a constant pain,” she said.“One day it would hurt, the next I was fine. In my first semester of college, these back pains began to come more often,” Hudgins said. “I ran cross country season, but once it came to indoor track and field it changed. My pain was getting worse and I had another injury in my hip,” she said.
“After sitting out for about three weeks, I started practicing again. I was really excited to compete in outdoor as I already missed one season that year,” Hudgins said. “The first outdoor meet was being held at OBU. The day before the meet we all had some mileage to run. While I was running, I suddenly had pain shooting up my back and my leg and toes started to become completely numb,” Hudgins said.
The sudden increase in severity prompted Hudgins to seek medical attention.
“Eventually, the doctors realized that I had Degenerative Disc Disease, meaning one of my discs was almost completely gone, and another disc was herniated,” Hudgins said.
Degenerative Disc Disease is a condition in which natural, age-related wear-and-tear on a disc causes pain, instability and other symptoms. This condition causes chronic pain as well as intermittent episodes of severe pain. This discovery benched Hudgins for the remainder of the season, and it was decided that she would have surgery to correct the problem later that summer.
“On August 2nd, I had a 360 fusion on my L5/SI discs,” she said.“This is when they go through my stomach (below the belly button) and take out the disc, and put in a metal cadge.”
“Then take stem cells from my hip and put them in the cage to grow a new ‘disc’ in my back. Then they turned me over and went through my back; they put in two rods and a couple of screws,” Hudgins said. “A 360 fusion is a major surgery that is usually never performed under someone under the age of 30. Me being 19 at the time, I was the youngest my surgeon had ever performed this surgery on. Needless to say, I was very scared,” Hudgins said.
Hudgins’ recovery time was set for six to seven months, meaning this would be when she would be able to run again. Since Hudgins had to relearn how to walk, it meant that she would more than likely miss the entirety of her sophomore season. While her recovery was not easy it was much less time than estimated by doctors.
“I received a partial-release after three months and then my full-release after five months,” Hudgins said.
Astoundingly, Hudgins improvement continued at a break-neck speed.
“I competed in my first full race on January 20th,” she said. “Running 30 seconds faster than what my coach wanted me to hit. This was the first time I competed in about thirteen months,” Hudgins said. “I give Christ all the glory and I’m reminded every practice, race and hard day that my circumstance do not define me or my task at hand. I am so unexplainably excited to run and do what I love again,” Hudgins said.
Hudgins’ amazing return to competition has also touched the lives of her teammates according to junior runner Emily Sechrist.
“The distance girls are a close-knit group, and when one of us is missing, it makes a big difference!”
“Mya’s attitude about the whole situation is something we all look up to. While she is in pain a lot of times, or can’t do as much as she used to, she never complains,” Sechrist said. “Sometimes I even forget that she had surgery and that it still affects her, because of how positive she is about it, rarely mentioning it, unless someone asks. She always has a good outlook on the surgery and her recovery too, knowing God is in control and has a plan,” Sechrist said.
Sechrist said she also believes that Hudgins is a testimony to God’s work in her life.
“Seeing Mya back at practice is such a great testimony of hard work, patience, faith, and perseverance, and it’s amazing to have her running and even competing with us again,” Sechrist said.