Who Is #7? – Sandro Platzgummer

My name is Sandro Platzgummer, I am a running back and returner for Austria’s Swarco Raiders Tirol. I started playing in the adult team back in 2015 when I was 17/18 years old. This upcoming year will be my 5th season.

This is the story of how I transitioned from the Youth Program into the highest Austrian (AFL) and European League (Big 6/CEFL). The way up is never easy as I had to get through injuries and adversity to get to the position where I am now.

Who is #7? - Sandro Platzgummer

Who is #7? – Sandro Platzgummer

I started playing football when I was 6 years old and went through the whole youth program at the Raiders, all the way from the youngest to the oldest age group. Since I was always a naturally good football player, had top coaching and talented players around me throughout my youth career, I managed to win the Austrian championship 7 out of 9 times, coming away with two silver medals and 7 gold medals. So the standards were always high for me.

In the U19-National team, I was equally successful, making the team in all my 4 eligible years, winning 2 European championships and reaching the 4th and 5th place in the World championships. Before my last youth season, I even played in the second men’s team of the Raiders where I was able to make a name for myself. All of that, as well as the departure of one of the best running backs in the AFL, eventually got me the starting job at running back of the Swarco Raiders Tirol men’s team in my senior rookie year.

Who is #7? - Sandro Platzgummer
Who is #7? – Sandro Platzgummer

But on the way there, I had some issues with injuries that I had to deal with. Basically it started in my first game in the AFL when I shared reps with a good German running back at that time. I hurt my hip flexor and was diagnosed with a partly torn muscle, which kept me from playing for the following 6 weeks. As I recovered, I worked hard to get myself back in shape. But after I got cleared to play again, I didn’t get any reps in games since the German running back had already established himself as the starter by then.

June 14th 2015, we were down, I think about 3 TDs in the first half, and the team wasn’t performing well. Then my name was called. I got the ball at the end of the first half and broke away for a long run followed by a touchdown run to end the half. Then in the 3rd Quarter, our coach decided to put me in there again and I broke away again on a 60 yard touchdown run which gave me the starting job for the rest of that game.

Who is #7? - Sandro Platzgummer
Who is #7? – Sandro Platzgummer

We ended up winning a close game to eventually get home field advantage for the playoffs. I had myself a game with 372 scrimmage yards and 4 Touchdowns on the day, becoming the AFL player of the week. After this game and throughout the rest of the season, I kept performing well enough to overtake the starting job at running back and returner. Our team won the Austrian Title that year and I became the AFL Young Star of the Year.

But the story isn’t over. In the last couple of weeks of the 2015 season (the European Championship of the Junior National team was around the same time as well) the knee issues that I’d dealt with from the previous year, got much worse. I had patella tendonitis in an advanced stage. In the last couple games of the season, I played through immense pain and had to find a way to get healthy during the the off season after two months of recovering didn’t help to heal it. Whenever I ran, jumped or even walked the stairs, I was in pain and was told by a doctor, that I might have that issue for the rest of my sports career.

Who is #7? - Sandro Platzgummer
Who is #7? – Sandro Platzgummer

With great physios and tough workouts to relieve stress on the tendon, I made it back to running after half a year and got healthy in time to start a 2016 season. That, to me, was magical. I managed to get the Young Star of the year award for the second time in a row and established myself among the best and most feared players of the league. Since then I have continued to be very successful as a player and as a team. I have also kept my patella issues under control ever since.

I’d like to pass on two lessons that I learned transitioning into the men’s program:

With everything those injuries (and all the ones I had after that) have cost me, I learned a lot about my health and my body control. I earned knowledge of where my limits are and how to overcome them. I think, with every injury you gain information you can use to try to stay healthy and become a better athlete. I’d like to tell everyone that is struggling with injuries and that has been kept back by them, to not lose motivation and become an even better athlete after an injury or setback.

Who is #7? - Sandro Platzgummer
Who is #7? – Sandro Platzgummer

And to everyone that was not given the chance yet to show their abilities on the field: It takes time for everyone, sometimes months and sometimes years. Always work hard and don’t let up. When the time comes when your name gets called. You just have to be ready for it.

Life is not always fair. Football (usually) is. If you work hard, invest time, and never give up, you will be rewarded.

– Sandro

Read the original story in The Battered Bastards

All photos courtesy Sandro Platzgummer

The Battered Bastards
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