The pain of an athletic injury is sharp and quick. It's a lot different than the kind of ache an athlete feels when they can only watch afterwards.
"Just sitting there,'' Hollidaysburg Area High School's Jarrett Shannon said, "eats at you.''
Shannon couldn't take that, so he decided to risk the former again.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Jarrett Shannon was reinjured less than a minute into his second game back.
A senior guard and the Golden Tigers' only returning starter from last season, Shannon was off to a great start to the season when tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a game on Dec. 22. He put off surgery and battled his way back, though, to start against Altoona and Indiana a month later before finally being sidelined for good.
"I had to try. Even if I just got one game,'' Shannon said.
"I think he showed a lot of courage,'' longtime friend and teammate Ian Ford said. "A lot of kids would just say, 'OK, I need to get surgery.' He worked really hard in those weeks between the holiday tournament when he tore it and when he came back for the Altoona game. He worked extremely hard to prepare himself to come back with us. It's just terrible it had to end the way it did.''
Shannon was averaging a team-high 15.6 points per game, had two 20-point games and scored in double figures in all five of the Tigers' games when he went down in a kind of pain he'd never experienced before without any contact while executing a dribble handoff play in the championship game of the Golden Tiger Roundball Classic against Hedgesville. One night earlier, he had fired in 20 points as Hollidaysburg defeated favored Johnstown in an opening-round tournament game.
"I describe it like someone taking a knife, putting it in your leg and twisting it,'' Shannon said. "You can't move your leg because it hurts so bad. It's to the point that you get chills because it hurts so bad. You do whatever you can to stop the pain. It's terrible.''
Shannon's teammates were in shock. They knew he wasn't one to milk an injury; he broke his arm once in a game at the Summit Athletic Club and continued to play.
"At first, I didn't think much of it. I thought maybe it was a twisted ankle or something. But, I know Jarrett's a tough kid, and when I saw him not getting up for that long I didn't want to think the worst, at first, but, once it came out, it was hard to deal with for our team,'' Ford, who has known Shannon since the beginning of junior high school, said.
Tiger coach Mick Pentoney, though, was all too familiar with what he was seeing.
"I've seen several kids have that injury. There was something about the way he did it and the way he grabbed his knee, the pain he was in, it was the [same] sick feeling that I got when a kid named Nick Sefchok several years ago had the exact same thing,'' Pentoney said. "It was a recurring nightmare as far as I was concerned.''
After the game, Shannon got an MRI. The verdict was about as bad as could be expected for someone who had played basketball since he was in first grade and had learned to love the game from his father and his older brother, Jimmy: Shannon had torn his ACL. His senior season, the one he'd waited for and worked so hard for, was over less than six games in.
"I kind of broke down little bit,'' Shannon said.
When he met the surgeon, though, Shannon was given an option.
"He said, 'I've had kids who've played on it before. Not basketball players, but football guys,''' Shannon said. "It's at your own risk. You can't really damage anything more with the ACL, but I risk tearing my MCL, my meniscus, my PCL. That was kind of scary, but I thought I'd give it a try.''
Shannon had been a major part of a successful Tiger rotation the previous two years. In 2010-11, he was the only non-senior starter on the team that earned the No. 1 seed in the District 6 Class AAAA playoffs, averaging 7.9 points.
This was Shannon's only chance to play on the varsity with the guys with whom he grew up playing ball.
"I've been waiting to play with these guys. I've never gotten to play with them since ninth grade,'' Shannon said. "We wanted to get into the D6 championship game and then see what happened.''
The road back was excruciating. After getting down the significant swelling and regaining mobility in his leg to the point he actually could bend it, Shannon had two-hour per day therapy sessions four or five days per week and strengthening his quadriceps for support.
Shannon returned to the lineup on Jan. 23, scoring five points against Indiana. He had been able to reach his goal of starting the following game against Altoona four days later.
Unfortunately, the feel-good story ended there. Less than a minute in, Shannon tried to recover on defense and his knee, without any stability, gave out again. After being attended to for several minutes, Shannon knew his season was over.
"When Coach P came out on the floor, I just told him, 'Coach, I'm done. I don't want to go through this pain anymore,''' Shannon said.
Luckily, it doesn't seem Shannon did any further damage to any other ligaments. He's scheduled to have surgery on Feb. 15. Then it will be two weeks on crutches, six more in a brace and three months until he's allowed to run.
Shannon, though, is still with his team, and not only in spirit. He's at all the games, practices and team meetings doing his best to contribute, either by offering constructive criticism or encouragement.
"When he's on the bench, he's able to watch us on the floor and help us and give us advice,'' Ford said. "When it's not coming from a coach, it's almost nicer.''
Although his comeback was short-lived, it might be seen as successful through a wider lens.
"Jarrett is definitely a tough kid. It's evident in just trying to come back from that injury and what he had to do to get back and choosing what was best for his team over what was best for him. I have all of the respect in the world for that kid,'' Pentoney said. "He's set an example of what we want our kids to be like as far as being team players.''
Despite the injury, Shannon expects to be back on court in college, maybe somewhere like Juniata or Pitt-Greensburg.
"I like to think everything happens for a reason,'' Shannon said. "I just don't know what that reason is, yet.'