Student Athletes Receive Second Chance and Run With it…Literally

Injuries can often plague an athlete’s career causing them to miss time in their short college careers, but in the case of many college athletes they are given a second chance. The NCAA offers a waiver that grants student athletes another year of athletic eligibility as a result of a season ending injury. According to the official SUNYAC website pertaining to the medical hardship waiver, “A medical hardship request is a request for an exception to the season of competition regulation per NCAA Division III Bylaw 14.2.5”.

SUNY Oswego’s Athletic Trainer, Stephen Papay gives the Universities’ policy on the matter below.

“The waiver allows these student athletes the chance to redeem themselves and give them the opportunity to pursue the season they lost”, said Papay. “We see athletes apply for this waiver every year”.

Two athletes in particular took full advantage of this waiver to extend their athletic careers while attending SUNY Oswego. Steven DenBleyker, a senior long distance runner on the track and field team suffered a season ending injury at the start of this year. DenBleyker’s injury was to his right foot and he was given the choice of running on it all season and have his results suffer or take the year off and rehab for the following season.

“I’m not going to lie I was a little depressed when I found out what the options were, but I looked into it a little more and found out about the waiver”, said DenBleyker. “The waiver would let me preserve that season for when I came back to get my Master’s Degree after my undergrad. Everything ended up working out perfectly, well except for the injured foot”.

“Steve made the correct decision when he chose to forgo his season and request the medical hardship”, said track and field assistant coach Stephanie Grimm. “We’re looking forward to having him next year and if not for the waiver, he would not have this opportunity.”

You can hear Steven’s goals and what he hopes to accomplish with his opportunity below.

Steven is not the only athlete on the track and field team that has taken advantage of this waiver. Senior hurdler and mid-distance runner Arek Janniga suffered an injury that shelved him for both the indoor and outdoor seasons his senior year. “I had lingering hamstring issues that prevented me from competing all year”, Janniga said. “Luckily for me, I’ve changed my major so much I have to stay an extra year so I’ll be able to use my last year of eligibility”.

The medical hardship not only benefits the athletes, but the teams they play for. “We’re grateful to have these seasoned athletes come back to lengthen their athletic careers and they will be extremely helpful when we’ve got the next group of recruits coming in”, said head track and field coach Derek Rousseau.

Injury is not the only factor to put into consideration when looking to file for the hardship waiver. According to athleticscholarships.org;

Athletes must keep in mind both the five-year clock and their four seasons of competition. Even if an athlete gets a medical hardship waiver, he or she needs to have time left on their five-year clock (10-semester/15-quarter clock in Divisions II and III) to use that season. This is problematic for athletes took a normal redshirt season or sat out due to a transfer. An athlete can generally not use a medical redshirt in those cases unless they get a clock extension or sixth year waiver. To do that the athlete show they lost two seasons outside of his or her control. The medical redshirt would be one, but the athlete would still need to show another.

Not all athletes are fortunate enough to come back and prolong their education so in that case, the waiver is often untouched. “I had to forfeit my junior year of tennis due to a torn hip flexor and this was heartbreaking because I’ve played tennis ever since I was ten”, said senior Dylan Carter. “The waiver would have been pointless for me because I wasn’t going to stay in school another year just to use my final year of eligibility. College is expensive and another year of tennis wasn’t really worth the $20,000 price tag.”

College athletics are the last chance these student athletes get to experience the sport they have come to love and without the hardship waiver, many careers would be cut short. Everyone deserves a second chance, especially in the case of athletes that suffer injury.

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