By Evan Wheaton
It’s been one year since it happened-
Junior midfielder Kyle Murakami suffering that devastating blow during a scrimmage against Saint Anselm.
“I know he was nervous about the Saint A’s game this past weekend, because that was the game he got hurt in,” said Springfield College men’s lacrosse head coach Keith Bugbee. “He had his jaw broken, busted up in that game. And I think he was glad to get that game over with, so he can kind of move on.”
A busted up jaw is an understatement.
“I actually ended up breaking my jaw in two places,” said Murakami. “I got hit with my helmet on, with a shot in the side of the head right next to my ear, and ended up breaking it right there and down the middle of my bottom jaw, right between my two teeth.”
“Definitely one of the scariest injuries I’ve ever had, first broken bone from my knowledge. It wasn’t pretty for sure, but it was something I had to go through and something where I learned a lot about myself.”
Murakami transferred to Springfield from the University of Vermont (UVM) last year and was eager to begin playing lacrosse for the Pride. UVM was “not the right school” according to Murakami, who was able to find his place on Alden Street through his old coach at South Burlington High School.
“My high school coach actually knew Bugbee pretty well, grew up going to all of Bugbee’s camps around the area, and he helped me find my way here,” said Murakami. “I’m really thankful for that, and thankful for the opportunity to have a second chance at not only a better school for me, but to be able to keep playing lacrosse.”
But before he could really get started, Murakami would have to wait a bit longer, thanks to his preseason injury.
After suffering the blow to his jaw, he wouldn’t see the field again for a month. However, missing practice and potential playing time would prove to be the least of Murakami’s concerns.
“My jaw was actually wired shut permanently for four weeks, so that was probably the worst part about the entire thing, not being able to eat the foods I really liked to,” said Murakami. “It was a lot of protein shakes, [and] smoothies.”
Thought, lacrosse and solid foods weren’t the only things Murakami had to miss out on during his recovery.
Due to the nature of the injury, he missed an abundance of classes while home in Burlington, Vt. Despite taking a dip in classroom attendance, Murakami was in good hands.
“The school was really good about helping me out,” said Murakami. “Being here at Springfield College, it’s like a co-curricular kind of thing, so the school was really helpful about getting back on track. Not that I would wish that on anyone, but it came at a good time, where it was three weeks before spring break. So I ended up going home for a week to recover back in Vermont.”
“My professors and all the faculty were really understanding about my situation, and just wanted me to make sure I didn’t fall too far behind.”
While catching up on his academics, Murakami did not miss out on supporting his team for even a second. Although he couldn’t play, he continued to travel with the team for away games and remained on the sidelines for every match.
“He’s a very strong player, but more importantly, he’s a very strong person,” said Bugbee. “You can tell a lot about someone when they get injured, how they handle an injury. They can feel sorry for themselves and kind of disappear.”
That wasn’t the case for Murakami.
“He was like, ‘Whatever, life throws curveballs at you and you just have to deal with them’ and he just had the best attitude and did whatever he could to feel a part of things and be a part of everything,” Bugbee continued. “At our team dinners, everyone’s having chicken parm and all these really nice pregame pasta meals and he’s throwing stuff in a blender, and it looked awful.”
In the end, his recovery proved to not just be a physical one.
Despite Murakami holding his head high, once he returned to the field, it was clear that his mindset suffered a lot of the damage too.
“As any athlete can attest, any time you’re held out from a sport for any period of time, [it] is really frustrating,” said Murakami. “The biggest thing for me was just getting over that mental thing. Physically, I was fine.”
“I knew I had been healed, but that mental freak accident kind of thing that could happen to anyone at any time- [it] didn’t scare me, but it didn’t allow me to play to my fullest confidence that I could’ve had.”
Murakami has worked to improve this aspect of his play, and continues to so.
“I’m obviously in a better place now confidence-wise, and just knowing that it’s not going to happen again,” he said.
With the injury far behind him and this year’s opening scrimmage against Saint Anselm in the books, Murakami is ready to help the Pride pursue their 12th consecutive conference title, and he’ll do so with the luxury of solid food.
Photo courtesy Mark Finerty via Instagram