It's not often I can relate to an athlete when he or she is injured.
Sure, I've had quite a few sprained ankles during my lifetime. But those are better categorized as minor setbacks. And the only other "injuries" on my list are rather embarrassing.
There was the black eye I suffered as a youngster on the baseball diamond when I lost a fly ball in the sun. And the time in the third grade when I fractured my elbow falling out of the bunk bed in the middle of the night. Or the week in middle school when I hobbled around on crutches because of nearly tearing a muscle in my leg after whiffing on a kick of a soccer ball in gym class.
But when I heard about Dallastown High School graduate Pat Conroy, and what he's been through in recent months, I had a little more of an understanding of his illness. Conroy, you see, is logging plenty of minutes for the men's lacrosse team at NCAA Division I Towson (Md.) University. It's quite impressive considering he's only a freshman -- and the fact he missed the first month of the season because of a bout with mononucleosis.
Mono: This past February, as spring practice began for Towson, Conroy just figured he felt tired and weak as a result of experiencing his first full practices at the college level. Like most tough-minded athletes he kept pushing, thinking his body would adjust. But it didn't.
"At first it was really bad," Conroy said by phone last week. "I had trouble sleeping."
That was one of the symptoms I also felt for a few weeks when I was a sophomore in high school and had to stay home from school because of mono. Every muscle in your body feels weak. You're always tired. And for some people, the illness can lead to a sore throat or fever.
Fortunately for Conroy, the Towson trainer noticed his symptoms shortly before the spring season began. Conroy got tested in the first days of February, with the results of the test coming back Feb. 8, the day of the Tigers' season opener.
"A half-an-hour before the first game I found out I tested positive for mono," Conroy said.
Conroy, a special education major who said he had a 3.4 grade-point average in the fall semester, still went to class over the next month, but avoided physical activity.
"They said that when I tested positive for it, my body was already starting to recover," Conroy said. "I had mono for awhile, I was just ignoring it."
Comeback: A 5-foot, 10-inch, long-stick midfielder, Conroy returned to the field in Towson's seventh game of the season at the Naval Academy. Since then, he's played in every game and helped the Tigers get to 7-7 overall, and 3-2 in Colonial Athletic Conference competition, good enough for third place behind Penn State (10-3, 5-0) and Drexel (10-3, 5-1).
He's done so by serving as one of four Towson players to handle face-off duties, winning 32-of-79 face-offs (40.5 percent) to this point.
Towson has CAA opponent St. Joseph's (5-9, 1-4) left on the regular-season schedule this Saturday before the CAA playoffs begin the following week.
"Most likely we'll have to win our conference (tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament)," Conroy said. "I'm very excited for that because I know last weekend we were just playing for the No. 1 spot in our conference against Penn State."
And like me, Conroy will be able to rest comfortably knowing the symptoms of mono will never return again now that he's overcome the illness.
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.