The least the country can do for its athletes, whose medals it piggybacks on in the good times, is provide them the comforting cloak of a health insurance cover for the bad times. While sweat and tears can scarcely be compensated in an international athlete’s life, the blood shed while competing, or bones and tendons broken, necessitate a safety net. Shuttler Ajay Jayaram is the latest in a long line of athletes who have felt let down after being left to fend for themselves while nursing injuries. Like inconsiderate consumers of human feats of athletic excellence, sports fans and federations and governments conveniently ignore — to use a baseball idiom — the Charley horses, limping equines who are out of the race for now.
From cricket to hockey to individual sports, sportspersons who witness an abrupt pause in their high-flying career are numerous. Greeting them back home, however, is deafening silence. The mental turmoil that this sudden withdrawal of attention can cause is something no one seems to care about. There are hardly any provisions, either, for picking up the tab for the treatment, let alone for paving the way for return to competition.
This year has seen an even more cruel development — as desperate sports fans have taken to social media to literally shame athletes for not recovering quickly enough from their injuries. It’s a strangely transactional love that sports followers extend to their heroes — minute dissection of every moment spent on the field when they are fit and in fine fettle and a callous dismissal when they are down and out. This dismal syndrome of neglect must be broken.
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