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Mundy Works His Way Back
By: Sam Webb
When Ryan Mundy suffered a painful nerve injury
last season, some thought that his career might be over. With help and
support from his family, tutelage from Ron English, and many intense workouts
in the weight room, the talented youngster made his way back to the field.
For the elite athlete in the sports, achieving extraordinary physical feats
is the norm. The top collegians and professionals can dunk a basketball,
run a 4.5 forty, or belt a 400-foot homerun almost as easily as the common-man
can push the button on his remote to watch them do it. Any athlete that
has the talent to compete at the highest level would love to keep it forever,
but most understand that their time at the top is limited. Their gifts
eventually erode with age. Unfortunately, there are some that never get
to the top. Injuries often curb the paths of what might otherwise be
great athletic careers. Last year, one of Michigan's best athletes was
faced with the possibility of having to make one of those ill-timed detours.
Halfway through career that was thought to be full of promise, Ryan Mundy
suffered the kind of physical setback that all athletes dread. An ordinary
tackle on the practice field resulted in an injury that cast doubt on whether
he'd ever play the game he loves at a high level again.
"It happened in a tackling drill early last camp," Mundy recalled. "I
felt this sweeping sensation down in my whole left arm. It was the most unbearable
pain I have ever had in my life. I really lost a significant amount of strength.
That is why I thought it would be the best for me and my team if I did not
go out there and play with one arm. The other players got the job done
better with two arms than I could with one arm."
In recent years the Wolverines have seen nerve injuries cut short the careers
of linebacker Lawrence Reid and fullback Roger Allison. When it was determined
that Mundy too had a nerve ailment, many assumed that he would suffer a similar
fate. Those assumptions were incorrect.
When Mundy received his diagnosis from Michigan doctors, he was informed that
his playing days weren't necessarily over. He was told that he could
eventually return after completing a strenuous rehab plan. For Mundy's
father, Greg, that information was just a starting point. He exhausted
every possible measure to ensure his son's health first, and his playing career
"My first thought was for his physical well being, obviously," the
elder Mundy said. "I’m not the type of person that takes things
for granted. You can’t just tell me something and not have me investigate
it. If someone says, 'that’s the way it is,' and I have a question,
I seek out the answer. It may be the same thing that you told me, but
I need to know that I investigated it and found out that was the correct answer. I
called Hershey Medical Center. That was an everyday call for me. They
actually have a center up there that deals primarily with Ryan's type of injury. It's
called Brachial Plexus. That’s all they deal with… nerve
injuries and all that kind of stuff. The doctor that I was speaking
to up there went along with some of the things that Michigan’s people
were telling me. He said that there were obviously several different degrees
of the injury. From what I was telling him, my son had the most severe
form. He was explaining to me that people keep saying shoulder, but it
wasn’t so much the shoulder. It was the trapezius muscle. It was
between the shoulder and the neck that the injury actually occurred…where
the nerves connect through your arm, trap, and neck. He said imagine a
train going through a tunnel. The train is going through, but it’s
just a little too big for the tunnel and it keeps bumping the top. That
interrupts that nerve impulse. What you have to do is make that tunnel
bigger by increasing the size of your traps by muscling it up and giving it
more support. With more muscle around it, you’re protected more. You
are going to get beat up, obviously, but you give yourself more of a fighting
chance if you secure that nerve with more musculature. I learned so much
about it, it was just incredible. I felt more comfortable knowing that
he didn’t have to have surgery. It was more 'you have to wait it
out, you have to be patient, and you have to make sure you are training your
traps.' I think during the time off, his neck and everything really got
more stable in that area. You just have to be patient. You can’t
rush. Just work hard it will be ok."
Armed with all of the pertinent information, Ryan and his family determined
that the best course of action was to sit out the season and focus on his rehab. That
was a small price to pay if it meant being able to resume his playing career
without endangering his health.
"I didn't want him to focus on getting well fast," Greg said. "I
wanted him to focus on getting well right. You have to be well
right to perform at 100%. You could be well in the sense that you can
go out there and do it, but could you perform at the level that you had to? You
can go out there at 85%, but that isn’t going to make it."
"There wasn't a time when they said I would never play again," added
Ryan. "They did say that if it kept happening that we may have to
reconsider my playing career. That is why I took into consideration sitting
out last season to rest up. I didn't want it to happen over and over again
and have the doctor telling me that I couldn't play. I still had a redshirt
year and time left to get myself right. I had to work hard to get back.
I was lifting everyday with (Michigan strength & conditioning coaches)
Mike Gittleson and Kevin Tolbert. They really helped me come a long way
because I was at zero strength in my left arm. I’m all the way back up
to 100% now and I attribute all those strength gains to them."
For the rest of this story on Ryan Mundy, plus features on Ryan Mallett, Rondell Biggs, College Football best Rivalries,
and more, check out the next issue of GoBlueWolverine
The Magazine. Subscription to the annual pass currently includes 56
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