Cooper Hodgdon’s back injury can not stop his dream

A segment of the high school gym as of February where Cooper Hodgedon pursues his hobby of weightlifting. There are many specialty machines that Hodgedon uses to do isolated muscle workouts that he can not do with weights. The machines are usually empty when he wants to use them which is a luxury that most gyms do not have and is why Hodgedon uses this gym.
A segment of the high school gym as of February where Cooper Hodgedon pursues his hobby of weightlifting. There are many specialty machines that Hodgedon uses to do isolated muscle workouts that he can not do with weights. The machines are usually empty when he wants to use them which is a luxury that most gyms do not have and is why Hodgedon uses this gym.
Photo by Gibby Strub

Nine months ago in April, sophomore Cooper Hodgdon had a serious back injury that prevented him from doing anything physical. This started when Hodgdon was in the high school gym after sunset one evening. The lights reflected off of the gym’s windows, which turned them into mirrors. It happened to be just another leg day, and he started to feel a small portion of pain in his lower back after a set of squats. Although he felt pain, he would not let that be an excuse to leave the gym early. He kept on lifting weights for a week until he had too much pain to lift almost anything. He finally decided that he had to get it checked out. He found out that due to lifting too much weight too fast, he ended up with a broken segment in his back.

Hodgdon put immense effort into weightlifting for over a year, day and night, active day and rest day. He never expected the pain in his back to be serious enough to skip a day. Hodgdon said when he first noticed his back problem.

Later that week, the pain became excruciating, so his dad wanted him to get an MRI scan done, and found out that his back was broken. The doctor says it would take three months to heal if he rests and does not continue to strain his back. He listened to his doctor for about a month before his addiction to the gym kicked in and his boredom of staying home became too strong. He could not stand the idea of sitting inside doing nothing for three months. 

“So I had to wait three months. The last two months I worked out so it did not start to feel better,” Hodgdon said.

He went to the doctor’s office again hoping to have his injury cleared, only for him to be disappointed when Hodgdon said that the doctor told him that he had to wait another three months because it had not healed properly. This then turned into three more months after that visit.

“found out it didn’t heal as much as it should have so I waited another three months, And I finally let it rest,” Hodgdon said.

For the next few months, he listened to the doctor by not weightlifting, running, biking, playing football, or anything too physical. This was depressing for Hodgdon because that meant that he could not do anything that he loved to do. His back became a problem, even for just existing where he had to wear a bulky back brace to school which became a huge inconvenience for his day.

“I got angry, I couldn’t lift anything over five pounds,” Hodgdon said.

Now that he could not do what he wanted, he accepted that he could not play football for his sophomore year, and knew that he could do nothing for six months. Hodgdon needed new ways to entertain himself so that over the summer he would not be bored and doing nothing. Hodgdon said that he got an Xbox and started to draw to pass the time.

“I started drawing more because before I didn’t think of doing it that much,” Hodgdon said

 Fishing was an activity he used to do before he got his injury and he used to think of it as just another activity he did with family and friends. After his injury, fishing was one of the few things he could do, and because of that “fishing became a whole lot more fun,” Hodgdon said. 

As the summer ended, his sophomore year of school was normal for him, but he was upset about not being able to play for the JV football team. Since he could not play for his team, he ended up going to practices and games just to watch them so he could still be part of their community. He made sure to show up to games to support his team because he could not be there. Because he could not do anything physical, he lost over 12 pounds of muscle, which he had built up for over a year.

I thought it was nothing.”

— Cooper Hodgdon

“I was at 172 pounds of lean muscle and then I dropped down to 160 pounds,” Hodgdon said.

Hodgdon’s neighborhood friend Teddy Valley has seen his whole journey play out. Valley knows that Hodgdon will come back even stronger when he is healed due to how dedicated he was at weightlifting.

“He’s just going to hit the grind. He’s just going to grind and, you know, try and make up the time he lost,” Valley said.

 In the beginning, Hodgdon realized that he was gaining fat because he was still on his weight-lifting diet, which is extremely high in calories, but quickly noticed what was happening and knew he had to do something about it.

 “I would be careful of what I ate, which I didn’t watch out for at first. I gained quite a bit of fat, but then I decided it’s still good to stretch and maybe go for jogs. So then I got myself back down to my original body fat,” Hodgdon said.

Hodgdon felt like he lost all his progress during this time, but has access to advice from his dad who had an injury in college that prevented him from his dream of getting signed to the NFL. His dad had experience in everything that he was going through, which made Hodgdon not feel alone. 

Hodgdon had the motivation to come back even harder than he did before because of his dad’s experience. “My dad motivates me because he was really good at football and he had a lot of offers but he also got an injury so he had to stop in college. So that motivates me to just keep going,” Hodgdon said. 

When Jan. 29 rolled around, Hodgdon was hoping that this visit to the doctors would be his last. He and his dad walked into the door, Cooper just praying that his back would finally be healed correctly but expected to get his hopes up. They met their doctor, then he had to get an MRI and X-rays to make sure that his injury had no possibility of not being fully healed. After this process, the doctor walked up to him with a smile and tells him the news he has been hoping to hear for almost a year.

“My back was cleared and I have scar tissue to prevent future injuries,” Hodgdon said.  

Later that day to celebrate the news he heard, he and his family went to go out to eat right after the doctor’s check to celebrate the phenomenal news. Right after that, Hodgdon can not stop thinking about how he will begin again, almost like he got the best Christmas present he has ever had and could not wait to use it! He already spent hours in his room researching what the best workouts are for being athletic and for football in preparation for Junior year.

“Looking back at a lot of athletes in the NFL that don’t really PR too much. They do more of like six to eight-repetition PRs. Okay. But every once in a while they do do a one rep maxes, but they don’t do 100% Because like that’s how you cause injury. So they have to be very, very careful. So I won’t be maxing out as much as I used to. And I’m probably not going to be squatting deadlifting or benching that much because there are other exercises that are way more athletic,” Hodgdon said.

When Hodgdon went to his room when he got back, he felt like it was a new beginning. Like he could finally lift a weight off of his chest for the first time in nine months.

“He was very happy about his injury being done and now he’s really committed to working hard because he got set back,” Valley said.

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