Brad Davison tries not to think about his injured left shoulder when he’s on the court.
That’s easier said than done for the freshman guard, who has been one of the few bright spots this season for the struggling University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team.
“I try to forget about it,” Davison said earlier this month. “But it’s definitely something, there’s a lot of possessions throughout a game where I can feel it, whether it gets tugged or I run into a screen or I get bumped.
“That’s just part of the game. It’s just something I’ve got to get used to and something that I have to deal with. I can’t change it, so I’m just going to go out there and keep doing what I can to help my team win.”
Davison originally sustained a dislocated shoulder against Baylor on Nov. 20. After his upper arm bone was manually maneuvered back into the shoulder socket by a member of the UW medical staff, Davison returned to the game.
That process has played out three other times during games despite the fact Davison is wearing a shoulder brace to help provide stability, including twice during the Badgers’ 82-70 victory over Chicago State on Wednesday night.
Once he gets his shoulder popped back into place away from the court, Davison has to pass a series of tests performed by a member of the medical staff before he’s allowed to return to play. Davison re-injured his shoulder 90 seconds into the game against Chicago State and again late in the second half, but each time he returned to the court and ended up playing 33 minutes.
According to OrthoInfo, a patient education website of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “once a shoulder has dislocated, it is vulnerable to repeat episodes. When the shoulder is loose and slips out of place repeatedly, it is called chronic shoulder instability.”
One question that has popped up repeatedly in the five-plus weeks since Davison first injured his shoulder is whether it’d be in his best interests to shut him down for the rest of the season. That issue has been discussed during conversations between Davison, his parents, UW athletic trainer Henry Perez-Guerra and Dr. John Orwin, the team physician.
“We feel that it’s safe for him to continue,” Perez-Guerra said Thursday as the Badgers (7-7) prepared to close non-conference play with a game against UMass Lowell (6-6) today at the Kohl Center. “Otherwise, he would have been stopped already.”
Davison’s position has been consistent: He wants to play, particularly since his absence would leave UW without another key player in a backcourt that already has lost freshman Kobe King (knee) for the season and sophomore D’Mitrik Trice (foot) for at least a month.
“I’ve had the discussion with my trainers and my parents and my pastor,” said Davison, who undergoes about two hours of treatment daily on his shoulder. “But I love to play basketball. If it’s just a little bruise or a little knick-knack and I can play with it, I’m all for playing with it. I have two teammates who can’t play, so I’m very thankful the Lord is still giving me the ability to play.”
Cori Davison said it’s been difficult to see her son in pain so often this season. He’s also made it clear to his parents it would take a lot to keep him off the court for a significant stretch.
“We’re not experts and we believe he’s in good hands and the trainer and the team doctor have been in constant communication with us, calling us all the time. We go in there and talk to them after every game,” Cori Davison said. “The message has been pretty clear and what they’ve told us is he can play through this without damaging it any further. …
“It comes down to two things: Can he play through the pain and the inconvenience of this reoccurring and all the daily therapy he has to go through. And then the second thing is, with him being in this situation, is he still able to help the team? And if the answer to that is yes, then the answer to the first one is yes. He’ll just do what he can. When it comes to a point where he’s not able to help the team any more, maybe he goes in a different direction.”
Perez-Guerra, who has been around the program a long time, said he’s been impressed with Davison’s ability to play through pain. Besides being second on the team in scoring at 12.1 points per game, Davison also has drawn a team-high 16 charges.
“I don’t know if the average athlete would have the mental drive to continue to go, and that’s what he wants to do,” Perez-Guerra said. “He’s an extremely tough kid. It doesn’t matter whether he has a sore back from taking charges or his shoulder is bothering him, he’s ready to go.
“Even when the incidents do occur on the floor, he’s fighting us to get back in. He has to pass a certain criteria for us to allow him to return and thus far he’s done great. I think he’s maybe one of the toughest kids I’ve met, and I’ve had some tough ones: Zak Showalter, Josh Gasser, Alando Tucker. All those guys, tougher than nails.”
Perez-Guerra declined to go into specifics about Davison’s injury. It seems likely Davison will need surgery once his season is over, but Perez-Guerra said that decision will be made at a later date after input from Davison, his family and the medical staff.
“I really want to overemphasize this: He would not be playing if we did not think it was safe,” Perez-Guerra said. “Obviously, we want this team to win and we want it to be good. But our No. 1 concern is Brad or any student-athlete that has an injury. We will take care of the injury and the student-athlete first and everything else comes second.”