Van Diest grits through hip pain, plays on for Lynx
The Webster City senior loves football. He loves his team. And so he smiles, even when he’s silently screaming out in pain on the inside.
Whenever the season ends for the sixth-ranked (Class 3A) Lynx, Van Diest knows there’s a scalpel in his future. He doesn’t need just one hip operation, but two, his rewards for a four-year affection for the game of football that has left him hobbling at times like someone three or four times his age.
“This is my favorite sport and this group of guys that we have is really close, so I wasn’t going to sit this out,” Van Diest, 18, said. “This is the last thing I’m going to be able to do in high school, so I just want to make it through it.”
Each Friday night since late August, Van Diest has played with a left torn labrum. The labrum is the ring of cartilage that follows the outside rim of the hip joint socket. It cushions the hip joint and also acts as a seal to help hold the ball at the top of the thighbone securely in the hip socket.
It’s an injury that Van Diest has experienced before. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip two years ago and a bone spur was discovered. As luck would have it, the bone spur has now grown back and will again need to be shaved off.
And to add to his ordeal, he tore the labrum in his right hip earlier this season. But he’s only been forced off the field once, during a Week 2 win over Carroll when he felt his hip pop out.
He wanted back in the game, but with Webster City way out in front in the second half, head coach Bob Howard declined his offer.
“That night was bad enough that he couldn’t go back in,” Howard said. “I think his hip displaces at times and (the pain) is pretty much constant. But he’s very mentally tough. It’s how bad he wants to play.”
Van Diest is now well-versed in a plethora of arthritis creams, something he uses daily in an attempt to loosen his muscles and ward off the pain. His current cream of choice? Voltaren.
“I’ve tried about a million things and it’s all the same,” Van Diest said. “It’s crazy to think that I’m doing this at 18 (years of age).”
Van Diest admits the pain is constant throughout games. He hobbles between plays and is slow to leave the field, but once the ball is snapped he plays with an aggression and attitude that rivals anyone.
“I always think this is going to be the game that it pops out and I can’t get back in, so it’s mental,” Van Diest said. “It hurts through the whole game, but once you get jacked up you really don’t think about it.”
As a leader both off the field and on it, Van Diest has played an invaluable role for unbeaten WCHS (8-0), which will face Sergeant Bluff-Luton (6-2) in the postseason Round of 16 this evening at Lynx Field. He’s the captain, the one teammates look to for support and motivation. He can throw a pretty good block too; as the team’s fullback, he’s out front on those Trey Mathis sprints to the perimeter, a staple in an offense that ranks in the top 5 in 3A in rushing yards.
Defensively, Van Diest has 28 tackles, including a team-leading 61⁄2 tackles for loss from his outside linebacker position. The Lynx defense allows just 11 points per game and ranks No. 5 in the class.
It would take a lot more than bad hips to keep Van Diest off the field this evening. He knows the challenge WCHS faces and he knows it will take everyone shrugging off ailments to advance to the state quarterfinals.
“It’s exciting and it’s fun to play a good team,” he said. “Nobody is going to be easy this time of year and (SB-L) is a very good team.”