Knee injuries can be some of the most serious injury cases in basketball.
Just ask Shaun Livingston. Or Amr’e Stoudemire. Two players with explosive potential in the NBA who lost their steps after recovering from knee injuries.
DeMarcus Gatlin, a 6’4 senior shooting and point guard for the Sam Houston State University basketball team, suffered not one, but two devastating knee injuries.
But Gatlin says he is coming back.
Gatlin was a successful two-year starter. According to gobearkats.com, Gatlin scored 467 points before his injury.
In the 2012-2013 season, he appeared in 22 games, which was more than halfway through the season before his basketball career was going to change in the blink of an eye.
It was in February when Gatlin suffered from a broken kneecap, a heartbreaking injury nobody wants to witness or hear about.
He underwent knee surgery almost immediately after the injury took place. This was just the beginning of his long, uphill journey he was about to endure.
After surgery, Gatlin had months of physical therapy, rehabilitation, and treatment to get his knee back in shape and ready for the upcoming 2013-2014 basketball season.
Gatlin got through the trying and difficulties of therapy and was cleared to start working out and practicing with the team again by the fall of 2013.
Just weeks before basketball season was underway, the unimaginable happened: Gatlin not only got hurt in practice, but actually reinjured his same knee that had just healed.
Dr. Sharon Hame, M.D., from the Department of Orthopedic Surgery of David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, conducted a study on NCAA Division I athletes who underwent knee surgery. She concluded that these athletes are seven or 20-fold more likely to reinjure their knee.
Chie Koizumi, Sam Houston State Athletic Trainer, has been working with Gatlin since his first injury. She said Gatlin’s injuries were serious and forced him to miss one and a half seasons.
According to Koizumi, the injury has been very tough on Gatlin. He experienced some depression after the second injury. But she said he is very motivated and tough-minded. He follows exactly what to do, working hard and hoping to get back on the court.
Gatlin has one year of eligibility left, and he wants to use it.
SHSU Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jason Hooten said the biggest effect on the team when they lost Gatlin due to the injury was his experience and his leadership.
Gatlin is a senior and a returning starter who had previous experience on successful teams. Hooten said he would have really made the transition for the three new players coming in a lot easier, and instead it was a bit of a struggle at the beginning of the year without Gatlin. They really missed his vocal leadership and toughness he brings to the team, Hooten said.
Hooten said that because of that toughness and leadership Gatlin brings, he believes the team may have been a little more successful had he been able to play.
“He averaged 10 points and four to five rebounds a game, so that’s a big loss,” Hooten said.
Even though Gatlin knew he had a great group of guys as teammates, it was tough on him not being able to contribute.
“Being a basketball player and watching your team play without you is very tough,” Gatlin said.
Despite the injuries and rocky journey Gatlin has had to face, off the court he says that the injury has actually affected him positively in some ways. He has had the opportunity and time to focus on achieving his Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology and he currently is on his way to getting a Master’s degree in Administration and Instructional Leadership.
Also, another positive affect was the chance to be on the sidelines was able to give Gatlin a different aspect of basketball as a whole.
According to Gatlin, instead of just playing basketball, and following the typical X’s and O’s, he has become a student of the game. He watches his teammates and things from a different point of view that will ultimately help him and his team as a whole for next season.
Gatlin is now preparing for the 2014-2015 season and is going to be facing a lot of pressure in returning after all that he has been through.
“I feel a lot of pressure from my teammates, my parents, family, and also my coaching staff, and also the added pressure I put upon myself,” Gatlin said.
After Gatlin observed from the sidelines, Hooten said he believes it helped him to mature and become even a better leader, which in turn will make him a better player and Sam Houston basketball a better team.
Gatlin, one of SHSU’s finest student-athletes, is on his way to turning his injury setbacks into a major comeback.