It hurt just to watch. Sebastian Heymann ran the counter-attack, completed it with a clean jump shot, but then went down after landing. Without external influences, without twisting your ankle. Despite this, the international immediately grabbed his left knee, convulsed in pain and indicated that he needed medical attention. The sad diagnosis followed the next day: the 24-year-old backcourt player had torn his cruciate ligament for the second time.
Unfortunately, scenes like this in the game between Göppingen and HSV Hamburg last Thursday are not uncommon in handball. For men, sport is the most injury-prone sport after football, for women it is even the most accident-prone sport, whereby it is often a matter of lengthy absences.
Studies by the statutory accident insurance company VGB show that the reason for this does not lie in the severity of the duels that are often carried out – only one fifth of the injuries are caused by a foul. However, handball is becoming increasingly dynamic and faster, regeneration times are decreasing, while the players’ loads are steadily increasing and the dull floors of the hall parquet are not necessarily helping.
“Injuries can happen, that’s an occupational hazard for us professional athletes,” said the Melsunger national player Timo Kastening almost calmly at the beginning of April after he was diagnosed with a cruciate ligament rupture and meniscus damage. “Unfortunately he’s right,” agrees Füchse player Paul Drux.
The 27-year-old knows what he’s talking about. Shoulder injury, meniscus damage, torn ligaments in the ankle – like a map, the Berliner’s body shows exactly the areas that the doctors have found to be particularly vulnerable in handball. “It’s not healthy. You have to clear up the misconception. In principle, sport is of course health-promoting, but at the level and in the intensity at which we do it, it’s definitely close to the limit,” says Drux. “You definitely have to be positively crazy to keep tormenting yourself like that.”
The rehabilitation process is particularly painful. You spend significantly more time in the hall, do strenuous exercises – and above all, this happens in constant solitude, unless another teammate is sharing the fate of suffering. “That’s not what you were born for as a team athlete,” says Drux. Nevertheless, the backcourt player managed to overcome both the physical and mental challenges several times. He managed “not to see everything black and to be miserable”, worked even harder on himself and tried to create moments of balance outside of sport. “Above all, you should have fun during this time and be with the team a lot, because otherwise it wears you down over time,” Drux said for himself.
At the same time, he notes that these situations offer opportunities for personal growth. Both in dealing with setbacks and in finding new perspectives that show that not everything always runs in a straight line. “You learn to appreciate what we as athletes are allowed to do every day and how fragile it all is,” says Drux.
However, the handball player would like to do without too many such sensory phases. In addition to the usual team training, he puts in extra shifts and works on the joint-stabilizing muscles. Meanwhile, Drux doesn’t have the option to change his high-contact playstyle. Years ago, his father even asked his former coach Velimir Petkovic to teach him a “proper jump shot”, as the coach reports, but Drux stuck to his distinctive one-one. On the one hand out of habit, on the other hand because his quick first step and his physical commitment have become his trademark and are part of the often appreciated quality of the 115-time national player.
A strength that he wants to demonstrate again in today’s game against Göppingen (7 p.m. / Sky). Although after his operations he gave up believing that he could return to his previous level of performance one hundred percent and is currently struggling with pain and minor injuries, the captain would like to get as much playing time as possible with the foxes, he would like to help his team as much as possible .
The fact that the Berliners can collect more points in their own hall to keep their chances for the Champions League helps to hide the problems – even if he knows that the risk of injury increases at the end of a season due to the longer, constant, high pressure . “You notice the body, but that drives you,” says Drux. “We’re looking forward to the last games, but also to June 13 and the summer break.” The holiday is already booked and if everything goes well, Paul Drux can look forward to five weeks off. He hasn’t been able to take a break without injury for a long time.