The star running back of the senior Powderpuff team and track captain Lauren Bazick was running towards the touchdown close to the sideline. A sharp turn to stay in bounds and she was pushed down by multiple junior girls, when she fell she could feel her knee pop.
With a previous ACL tear on the other knee, Bazick immediately thought of the worst. After testing her knee out and jumping on the sideline, Bazick knew something was wrong. She soon learned that she had a full ACL and Meniscus tear.
With a track career in her future and a highly-anticipated senior season ahead, Lauren Bazick had no idea her future running track could be crushed in a flag football game. It’s not a surprise that Bazick hasn’t lost faith of track being a possibility, but after three years of girls tearing their ACLs, preventing these injuries has become the goal moving forward.
The Powderpuff football game is a highly-anticipated event that many female athletes look forward to year after year. It’s also for a great cause as all of the proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Nevertheless, for three years in a row, an athlete has suffered a brutal knee injury that not only took them out of the game but, in some cases, ended their athletic career.
Whether it’s a torn ACL or meniscus, girls have been suffering unexplainable injuries from this game.
This begs the question: Is it worth it to participate in the Powderpuff football game and risk an injury that could potentially end your athletic career?
The devastating injuries started with Marissa Rafail in 2016, then Morgan Esch in 2017, and now Bazick.
What made them join the Powderpuff roster?
“I just wanted to enjoy senior year,” Bazick said. “I had a good group of friends with me and it was just to have fun.”
Bazick also participated in the game last year as a junior, but her experience wasn’t enough to prevent a major knee injury.
“It was a mix of making a sharp turn and getting pushed down by two people,” she said of her injury. “My knee popped like five times and I just heard it crack.”
Bazick did say she thought of the injury potential before ultimately deciding to participate in the Powderpuff game. Bazick is also a successful track runner and is still hopeful to participate in the upcoming season in the spring.
“When I talked with my surgeon he said that participating physically is unlikely but it’s not a terrible goal to strive for,” Bazick said.
Regardless if she’s able to compete, Bazick will still hold her status as captain on the track team and be heavily involved with the team.
While Bazick showed some concern before joining the Powderpuff roster, neither Rafail nor Esch considered injuries prior to playing in the game.
“Never in a million years - its Powderpuff,” Rafail said. “I thought it was supposed to be a fun game.”
Rafail tore her ACL and meniscus in the game and she acknowledges that she was the “trend setter” of injuries in the game. After Morgan Esch suffered an injury a year later in the same game it has some female athletes thinking twice before joining the game.
Bazick and Esch both had previous ACL tears meaning their risk of another tear was intensified.
In the second half, Esch made a cut that proved to be enough to tear her ACL, this instance was without contact. Coming off of a strong soccer season with no knee problems Esch’s tear was a freak incident to her.
“I was doing everything I was supposed to,” Esch said, adding she was “in shape” like usual. “Everyone goes into the game wanting to win.”
This mentality provides for a dangerous situation when combined with a practice atmosphere not supervised by adults but instead by players thirsty to win. The players are instrumental in putting the game together and this is not to blame them, it is instead to draw attention to the fact that the one goal is to win and the game is not regulated like it should.
“Girls are more susceptible to ACL tears because usually their hips are wider than guys,” said Chris Whittaker, DHS strength and conditioning coach. “The wider the hip the more angle the knee tends to come in.”
Whittaker also mentioned the only effective way for any athlete, not just Powderpuff athletes, to avoid knee-related injuries is to strengthen the muscles around the knee to hold it in place.
Whittaker, who is also an assistant football coach, was critical of the lack of rules in the game and lack of preparation.
“They should have ten practices before they go out and play on that football field,” he said.
The annual Powderpuff Football game is an event that female athletes from all sports can participate in to have a good time with friends and play a new sport. All the proceeds go to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Over $800 was raised this year.
Photographer - Quinn LaFontaine