Goals came regularly for Hunter West throughout his freshman season, but unfortunately, so did the pain and stiffness in his right hamstring that followed every game. West knew it was something serious.
Serious indeed. The USF standout underwent a rare surgery to remove a calcified piece of his pelvis three weeks ago. It is unclear if he will be ready for the season opener in August.
The striker, whose 14 goals saw him finish as the second top scorer in Conference USA and named C-USA Freshman of the Year, attributed the pain to a hairline fracture of his pelvis from his freshman year in high school. Although he battled through to the end of the Bulls’ season, throughout spring training, the injury worsened, forcing the freshman to seek medical help. A series of x-rays and CAT scans revealed that a piece of pelvic bone had become detached. West was faced with the choice of playing with discomfort or undergoing surgery.
“There was an awful amount of pain after every game. I thought it was time for me to make a decision to get this sorted out,” West said. “I can’t say (the injury) affected me, as I did very well this season. But it was too much pain, which is why I decided to go with the surgery.”
West was referred to Dr. Arthur K. Walling of the Orthopedic Institute by trainer Nicole Curski. The operation, on May 6, removed a piece of calcified bone, described by Walling as the size of a small fist, and reattached West’s right hamstring. As an athlete, West said, the possibility of such an operation prematurely ending his career added to the ordeal. “(The doctor’s) done about six of these surgeries. He’s never performed the surgery on a top athlete before. I was a little scared at that part,” West said. “I’m putting my career on the line with this physician I’ve spoken to for about 10 minutes. These thoughts do run through your mind before (the operation).”
In the two weeks following the surgery, the normally energetic West said he found the loss of mobility difficult to deal with.
“It was a hard operation in that you lose a lot of time. It was hard to be mobile and even walk in the first two weeks, although I didn’t have very much pain afterward.”
With the operation now behind him, West’s sole focus is Aug. 29, when the Bulls open their 2003 regular season against Florida Atlantic University.
Once his physician is satisfied that the incision has healed, West will begin an extensive rehabilitation schedule of stretching exercises and electrotherapy on his hamstring in June, followed by gentle jogging and low-intensity sprinting in July. West said he is aware that rehabilitation will be physically tough.
“I would say I am a little hesitant with rehab. It’s going to be difficult coming back. With the new players coming in, I want to be able to form a relationship with them for the upcoming season,” West said.
Bulls coach George Kiefer said he had been aware that West struggled toward the end of games.
“He got to a point in the spring where he couldn’t play in any of the matches,” Kiefer said. “He made a good decision to get this surgery.”
Kiefer, who along with assistant coach Jeff Nagalha visited West in the hospital, said he was not overly concerned that West’s fitness levels may be below his other players if he is not ready for the start of pre-season training Aug. 15.
“I don’t think it puts him (at) a great disadvantage,” Kiefer said. “It puts us coaches on alert that we have to look at this as a long-term thing and bring him back slowly. We’ll have to be careful of the situation and monitor it closely every day.”
In addition to jeopardizing West’s chances of playing in the Bulls’ opening match, the injury ended his chances of playing for Professional Development League team the Bradenton Academics during the summer. Despite these setbacks, the 21-year-old remains upbeat.
“Before the surgery, I wasn’t that confident. It’s a very rare type of surgery,” West said. “It’s been about three weeks now. I’m feeling great and starting to walk normal. I’m 95 percent sure I’ll be ready to play for the start of the season.”