Tom Purdie’s health chose the absolute worst hours of the 2014-15 boys basketball season to go awry.
On the morning of March 2, Whiteland’s 6-foot-4 junior forward, who led the Warriors in scoring and rebounding, woke up with a nasty flu bug.
“I didn’t feel right and even vomited a couple of times,” said Purdie, who in approximately 36 hours would be counted on to lead Whiteland against a tall Franklin Central squad in a first-round sectional game.
“I even missed practice that day, which I was really upset about. That’s when a lot of game-planning goes on, a lot of watching film, but I thought it might be best to stay home and take it easy.”
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The rest helped. Some.
Purdie took the Warriors’ home court that evening weighing 208 pounds — seven less than normal – and contributed 21 points and five boards in a 66-59 loss.
Those who compete while ill are either viewed as a running, dribbling example of the consummate team player or a reckless germ spreader putting teammates, coaches, the opposing team, the referees and even the ball boys at risk.
The Jordan affect
Being like Mike isn’t always the soundest course of action for young athletes anxious to emulate the actions of their sports idols.
Noticeably weakened by a 103-degree temperature in the hours leading up to Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan willed the Chicago Bulls to a 90-88 victory.
Sweating profusely, Jordan scored 38 points to elevate his legend to a whole new level.
“You’re talking about one of the greatest competitors ever on one of the greatest stages ever, the NBA Finals,” said former Franklin College basketball player David Dunkle, a family physician who works in Franklin.
As a former athlete, Dunkle understands a person wanting to compete no matter how bad he or she feels.
Yet the man who has been treating patients for the past two decades cautions against such decision-making as it is both irresponsible and selfish.
“It really is a case-by-case basis. I usually tell a kid if they have a febrile illness that they probably should not play,” Dunkle said. “But athletes are competitors, especially the good ones. Those are the kids who want to play no matter what.”
Dunkle said a sick player possibly spreading germs to teammates, opposing players and anyone else he or she comes in close contact with carries greater weight than the courage it took to play.
Athletes will play in a game for myriad reasons — fear of letting down teammates, fans or family members.
Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe it’s none of the above as an athlete’s sports reputation has been known to lessen if saddled with the reputation for being ‘soft’.
Athletes who have vomited within 24 hours of competition shouldn’t participate, Dunkle said.
“I would tell someone who has been vomiting that they shouldn’t be playing. It’s not only them, but it’s the germs they could be spreading. It’s kind of selfish because you’re not thinking about your teammates and the opponents,” Dunkle said.
“But I remember doing whatever I could to play. The bigger the game, if you’re the best player you’re going to do everything you can to get out there.”
With so many schools and student-athletes to monitor neither the Indiana High School Athletic Association or National Federation of State High School Associations can enforce when one person’s sick is too sick.
Or not sick enough.
“The only rules the IHSAA maintains in this area would be our practice rule. If a student misses five to 10 separate days of practice, they must complete four separate days of practice to return to competition,” IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said.
Purdie doesn’t hesitate when asked if he would do it all over again if placed in a similar position at some point during the 2015-16 basketball season.
Like so many athletes in all sports, he would. Maybe not with a smile, but he would.
“For me, personally, it’s because I love my teammates. I owe it to them to give my best and try to help us get a win. Plus I know they would do the same for me,” Purdie said.
Whether an athlete competes with an illness such as a cold or flu is usually made by the coach.
But what about when an athlete tells the coach he or she is ready to answer the call even though the coach still has reservations?
“I leave it up to the kid, but you can always tell if someone is sick. And then most of the time that’s going to affect strength. It’s case-by-case, but if you see something is not right you get them off the field,” Center Grove baseball coach Keith Hatfield said.
An athlete’s desire to compete can hinge on circumstance.
Franklin College runner Anna Murdock recently sought to advance to the NCAA Division-III Indoor Track Championships for the first time. As a senior she knew she had only one opportunity remaining.
Battling a sinus infection the previous weekend, Murdock, an Indian Creek High School product, nonetheless competed in the 800-meter run at the Last Chance Qualifier at Ohio Northern University.
“She definitely was not feeling good. It wasn’t surprising she ran but that she ran as well as she did,” Grizzlies track coach Paul Sargent said. “But Anna is a senior and smart enough to tell me if she can’t go.”
Murdock went all right. Her time of 2:13.78 is the nation’s seventh-fastest time this season in D-III among the 17 qualifiers competing today at Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
“I was confident it was mind over matter for me. I didn’t feel the greatest, but I try to stay focused,” said Murdock, who qualified as a sophomore and junior for the outdoor national championships in the 800.
“I was definitely going to run because it was my last chance to make it to indoor nationals. You don’t get opportunities like this after college.”
Notre Dame sophomore hurdler Conner Stapleton is red-shirting this indoor and outdoor track season after undergoing surgery in December to remove an extra bone in his right foot.
The 2013 state champion in the 300-meter intermediate hurdles does remember a time or three competing for Center Grove when feeling less than ideal. One example is his junior season at the MIC meet.
“I felt sick, and I ran anyway. It wasn’t the most enjoyable experience, but I did well. The sickness takes your mind off how tired you are,” Stapleton said.
“Leading up to a meet you have to listen to your body. My thing is if you can’t give 100 percent you shouldn’t be running. You can overcome sickness. Certain injuries you can’t.”