His name is Stormy Day. He nearly won the state wrestling title as a freshman, found out he had a broken back as a sophomore and recovered to become one of the top kick returners in the state as a junior. He’s been busy.
Day’s lower back began bothering him at wrestling camp between his freshmen and sophomore years. He went to a chiropractor, finished camp and started football. But the pain persisted. Then on Oct. 31 of last year, in Glacier High School’s final game of the season, the pain was so bad he couldn’t walk.
His parents thought it might be a strained muscle or pinched nerve. The chiropractor couldn’t figure it out. Finally, after MRIs and tests, the doctor told him he has spondylolysis – part of his lower back was totally broken on the left side and slightly fractured on the right side.
“We thought, ‘Oh, you strained some muscles,’” said Day’s mother, Shannon Day. “The doctor said, ‘No he has a broken back.’ We were taken aback.”
The Days still don’t know exactly how the injury occurred. Day took a hard hit in a game last year that could have exacerbated the injury, but his back had already been bothering him before that. Doctors said that some people are born with spondylolysis and never know it. Others endure a break and the pain creeps up on them. The condition, Shannon said, is common in gymnasts and football linemen.
“It’s pretty debilitating,” Shannon said.
Day, a junior at Glacier High School, is second in Class AA in kickoff returns this fall, averaging 17.4 yards per return. Two years ago as a freshman, he finished fourth in the state in wrestling at 125 pounds and had high expectations for his sophomore year. But the injury forced him out for the wrestling season. He’s eager to get back on the mat.
The fact that Day is able to wrestle and play football again is a result of good fortune and hard work. Tests showed that his bones were healing naturally, a positive sign. So Day was instructed to wear a back brace for a couple of months and to avoid physical activity, a difficult task for any teenager, especially this one, his mother said.
“That kid’s been going since he was 2 years old,” Shannon said. “We’d lock the gates, he’d climb fences. He was just go, go, go.”
When the brace came off, Day continued with a physical therapy routine. But he still couldn’t do the activities he loves. He is an avid hunter, and in the summer he likes to water tube and go to athletic camps. The bulk of his activity over the summer was dedicated to strengthening the core muscles in his back and abdominal area.
“I told them I didn’t want to be sitting around,” Day said.
His training regimen included specific weightlifting exercises and lots of sit-ups. Day also added a slightly alternative program – launching off a rope swing into Bootjack Lake, a favorite family hangout. Contorting his body for acrobatic flips and twists targeted the exact muscles he needed to strengthen, Shannon said.
“It seemed like the natural thing to do,” Shannon said. “I do think it’s helping.”
With his return to football complete, Day is now welcoming the return to hunting this fall and wrestling in the winter. He will continue to focus on keeping his core muscles strong to protect his back. Shannon reminds: “He’s still in the recovery stage and will be.” Wrestling, with its many contortions of the body, might require a little re-learning.
“Come wrestling season, he’s going to have to figure out a different way of wrestling,” Shannon said.
But Day will take on wrestling season when it comes. For now, he’s just glad to be his old hyper self again.
“It feels good to be back,” Day said.
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