Mag Excerpt: Mundy Works His Way Back

In the November issue of GoBlueWolverine the Magazine, we focus on rivalries and why the annual clash between Michigan & Ohio State is still the best of them all. We also have in-depth features on Ryan Mallett, Rondell Biggs, and much much more. In this mag excerpt we highlight our feature on Ryan Mundy and his journey back to the football field after being sidelined with a serious nerve injury.

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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 second.

"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 issues of Sports Illustrated, so get in now!

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