Kelsey Taylor is injured but never finished

BY AMY TIFFANY | APRIL 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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No matter what happens, there's one thing sophomore captain Kelsey Taylor is going to do: keep throwing.

Over her almost two full years on the Iowa women's track and field team as a thrower, Taylor has faced a handful of serious injuries.

On March 31, 2010, she had surgery on her right knee to repair a torn meniscus. Her recovery was quick, and she was able to throw within a month. Then in September, her left hand and fingers started tingling, with a little bit of pain in her elbow and lower arm. But that sensation disappeared within a week.

On Dec. 15, 2010, Taylor was doing a weightlifting exercise that required her to lie on her back and hold a weight over her head. She accidentally dropped a 15-kilogram plate on her head and suffered a concussion and broken nose. A week later, she found out she had strep throat and mononucleosis.

When her concussion and nose healed, and the mono and strep was gone, it was back to throwing and weightlifting. But the pain in her left elbow and tingling she'd felt in September came back more persistently in January.

So persistent that now she solely drills during the week and only does full throws during meets. So persistent that Taylor ranked her pain level as a seven or an eight out of 10 after she threw at the Musco Twilight meet on April 23.

Yet at Musco, she still had a personal record in the hammer, throwing for 53.95 feet.

"For being injured and not practicing much during the week, that was a good meet for me," she said.

She has a dislocated ulnar nerve in her left elbow. Whenever the nerve dislocates or hyper-extends, the pain is at its highest.

"A nerve is just different," Taylor said. "I told [assistant coach Scott] Cappos that nerve pain, I don't even know how to describe it."

She used to be able to tolerate the pain, but she noticed a more intense pain after the Jim Duncan Invitational on April 16. Making the change to just drilling in practice has made a difference, but it's still an issue. One of the big differences, she said, is that nerve pain travels from her elbow and lower arm all the way through her pinky and ring finger, where it tingles. Other pain, like in muscles, she said, is more localized.

But the injury isn't going to stop her.

"I think it just makes those [personal records] all the more sweeter because you know how much work you put in," she said.

After the season, she'll decide whether to have surgery on it.

"While she may have injuries and challenges, she's going to work hard, she's going to work to get healthy, she's not going to use those as an excuse," head coach Layne Anderson said. "And she's just continuing to get better as she's moving right up the ranks at Iowa all-time, beginning to position herself as a possible scorer at the Big Ten level.

"There's no one in our program — certainly there's some who're equally as motivated and driven — but I wouldn't say there's anyone that's more motivated or driven to be successful as Kelsey."

This was one of the reasons why she was named captain. Anderson described Taylor as a workhorse — someone on the team who always leads by example, is well respected by her teammates, and continues to improve.

"As far as determination, work ethic, the other intangibles that help create success at this level," Cappos said. "She's got all those things and then some."

Taylor has not had to miss out on any competitions yet in the current season. Even though the pain in her elbow has gotten worse, her injury isn't going to deter her.

"I don't think injury can hold me back from an opportunity like this," she said. "I mean, yeah, I'm in some pain, and I'm probably going to have some ridiculous arthritis when I'm older, but right now, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

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