Indiana Hoosiers

One Injury That Changed It All - Cole Weaver

ONE INJURY THAT CHANGED IT ALL

BY COLE WEAVER

My story starts in Hudson, Michigan where I grew up. Our small-town community connected around the sport of wrestling. The saying “it takes a village to raise a child,” is certainly applicable in my case.

Raised in a town of enthusiastic wrestling fans, I was first introduced to the sport by a family relative. He showed me how to shoot for the legs and dominate my opponents.

It didn’t take much more for me to fall in love with wrestling.

Eventually, my passion for the sport led me to three High School State Championships and to sign with one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Indiana University.

I redshirted my first year but secured a starting position in the 141 pounds weight class once I got to compete for the Hoosiers my second year. I was feeling good and proud that I was able to represent my community.

But on January 29, 2016, my life would change forever.

The Moment I’ll Never Forget

It happened while I was wrestling against Ohio State. Our match began like any other, nothing out of the ordinary. Except this particular time, when I shot for his legs, I ended up catching his knee straight into my eye.

From the moment of impact, I could tell that something wasn’t right.  I lost all sense of direction and thought I was going to throw up.

The coaches and trainers assumed that I was concussed, so I was forced to forfeit the match.

When I woke up in the morning, I called my parents to give them an update.  As I’m talking to my mom, I felt air and pressure behind my left eye, like my eyeball was falling out of my eye socket.

Without even second-guessing myself, my immediate reaction was to push my eye back into place, or at least what felt like “the right place”.

As I’m pushing my eye back, I displaced the area, pushing fat tissue through a fracture in the skull creating a small bubble underneath my eye.  I went for a cat scan and the doctors diagnosed my injury as an orbital fracture. The injury would take me out of competition for the rest of the season.

I went for an orbital floor reconstruction a few weeks later. They made a cut below my eye and inserted a plate where the fracture was. So, technically, my eyeball is just sitting on a plate.

I had a lot problems with my eyesight after surgery, especially with double vision.   Because of these complications, my mom, who is a nurse, encouraged me to consult with an eye specialist closer to home. Unfortunately, I would never make it there…

The Moment I’ll Never Forget

It all happened while I was wrestling against Ohio State. Our match began like any other, nothing out of the ordinary. Except this particular time, when I shot for his legs, I ended up catching his knee straight into my eye.

From the very start, I could tell that something wasn’t right; after all, I was somewhat unconscious writhing on the ground.

The coaches and trainers assumed that I was concussed, so I was forced to forfeit the match.

When I woke up in the morning, I decided to call my parents and give them the news. As I’m talking to my parents, I remember jolting up as I called out in pain. I felt this pressure building up in what felt like my eye socket.

Without even second-guessing myself, my immediate reaction was to push my eye back into place, or at least what felt like “the right place”.

As I’m pushing my eye back, I accidentally displace the area, pushing fat tissue through a fracture in the skull creating a small bubble underneath my eye.

The doctors diagnosing my injury as an orbital fracture. The injury would take me out of competition for the rest of the season.

When I finally decided I’d have surgery, they made a cut below my eye and inserted a plate where the fracture was. So, technically, my eyeball is just sitting on a plate.

I remember complaining about my eyesight and the fact that I still had double vision after that first surgery. Because of these complications, my mom, who was a nurse, encouraged me to consult with a special doctor. Unfortunately, I would never make it there…

The Most Painful Experience

On my way to the doctor, I got involved in a severe car accident. An accident that broke my femur completely in half and cracked my pelvis bone vertically.  

All I remember is driving on the interstate when all of the sudden the car in front of me almost came to a complete stop. I quickly swerved to the right and ended up colliding against another car.

The other car flipped upside down, while my own car was rooted up against a telephone pole. My first response after the accident was to get out of the car. The only problem was… my leg was broken.

After several attempts to walk on broken bones I fell straight to the floor. With no other options, I began crawling away from the road until someone came to help.

We ended up getting life plated, first the woman of the other car who was in critical condition, then myself.

As I’m waiting for my life plate, I remember how tight my leg felt against my pants and an intense throbbing pain. Because my heart rate was so low, I wasn’t allowed to take any painkillers. They would have killed me.

Once we landed, I was put in traction for a couple of hours before I had to go through surgery. The procedure was connecting a metal rod from my knee to my hip and securing bolts all along the sides of my legs.

It was bad, it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.

The Most Painful Experience

On my way home, I got involved in a severe car accident. An accident that broke my femur completely in half and cracked my pelvis bone vertically.  

All I remember is driving on the interstate when all of the sudden the car in front of me was almost at a complete stop. I quickly swerved to the right but still collided with a car.

The other car flipped upside down, while my own one was rooted up against a telephone pole. My first response after the accident was to get out of the car. The only problem was… my leg was broken.

After several attempts to walk on broken bones I fell straight to the ground. With no other options, I began crawling away from the road until someone came to help.

We ended up getting transported in a helicopter to a trauma center in Toledo. First, the woman of the other car who was in critical condition, then myself.

As I’m waiting for my life plate, I remember how tight my leg felt against my pants and an intense throbbing pain. Because my heart rate was so low, I wasn’t allowed to take any painkillers.

Once we landed, I was put in traction for a couple of hours before I had to go through surgery. The procedure was connecting a metal rod from my knee to my hip and securing bolts all along the sides of my legs.

It was bad, it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced.

Things Got Way Worse

When I woke up from my surgery, however, I received news that overshadowed all of the fear and pain. The words that came out from the mouth of the county sheriff were unbelievable.

I was told that the driver I collided with passed away while I was in surgery. As I hear the news, I am overwhelmed with this empty feeling washing over me.

To this day, there hasn’t been a time in my life where I don’t think about the car accident.

But I try my best to use what happened as fuel to move forward.

I won’t lie, it was more than just challenging to cope with the situation. My friends, family, and coaches were very supportive.  But I also reached out to my priest for help. With the strength of my faith, I managed to move forward.

 

The Long Way Back

When I got out of the hospital, I was in bad shape. Thanks to my doctors and amazing trainers, I was able to get back to the sport I love.

Although I could wrestle again, I didn’t have a great year. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to wrestle, but I was a mess. I didn’t realize how much muscle I had lost in my body and especially my legs. The fact that I had back-tracked so far competitively was frustrating.

The following year, we got a new coach, Angel. I worked with him so much and he helped me out a ton. That year, I ended up having a really great season.

I was feeling strength in my body again and even ranked 12th in my division, setting a personal record. I made it to the NCAA tournament and was just a couple rounds short of an All-American.

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Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to wrestle, but I was a mess. I didn’t realize how much muscle I had lost in my body and especially my legs. The fact that I had back-tracked so far competitively was frustrating.

And Another One

My enthusiasm, however, was short-lived. After the tournament, we had a light practice. As I’m sparing with my partner, we end up in a weird position and fall over on my ankle in a contorted way.

All you hear is a loud snap! I immediately know that something’s not right, I had severe pain in my left ankle.

My team rushes over and carries me to our health staff to get my ankle examined. I thought I broke my leg again but it turns out, I had just torn my muscles and ligaments holding my ankle.

Honestly, it would have been better for me just to break my leg.

So, what that meant for me was more surgery, yeah!

At the doctor’s office, they were able to show me a live feed of my x-rays. The doctor showed me how my tibia was completely separated from my ankle. For the procedure, the doctors had to connect wires to my ankle to hold it in place, apply two screws, and two washers.

Today, that’s all holding my ankle together and making it twice as thick as my other foot.

So, once again, I was back on the road to recovery. Thanks to my trainer Kyle, I was able to make a comeback.

As the new season was underway, I continued to wrestle against high level athletes, but I still wasn’t setting back into the groove of things. The more I wrestled, the more health issues I would run into. And I guess it was just a matter of time for my next, and final, injury to happen.

 

One Last Time

While wrestling at a tournament in Florida, I took a hard hit to the back of my neck and shoulders. Almost instantly, I could tell I had injured myself. As I continued to wrestle throughout the tournament, an intense burning sensation built up in my arm.

The trainer took me to an urgent care in Florida to check it out. Turns out I had a permeated disc in the back of my neck. What I thought was going to mean sitting out for a while ended up being a lot more serious.

And just like that, I was done with my collegiate wrestling career.

Despite all the physical therapy, recovery, and training I’ve pushed through, there was no way getting past this one. My number was up, I’d have to give up wrestling.

I won’t ever forget what happened and all the hardships I’ve dealt with along the way. It has made me the person I am today. I learned how important it is to deal with adversity that happens in life.  Hard work and patience pays off. 

This year, I even received the Brady Comeback Award. Staff at Indiana nominated me for the award for which I’m beyond thankful for.

At the end of the day, I’m proud of myself for coming back and simply want to say: Thank you, Indiana, for everything you have done for me.

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