Missouri State ice hockey player recovering after game injury

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A player for the Missouri State ice hockey team fortunate to still have his leg, after an injury became life threatening at a game nearly two weeks ago.

In the last eleven days, Derek Smith has had three surgeries.

In their most recent game in Chesterfield, the Missouri State Ice Bears hung Smith's jersey behind their bench at their game. Smith was released from the hospital Monday.

He will be out for the rest of the reason after a routine hit that could have turned deadly.

"Hockey's a pretty intense sport, lots of contact," said assistant coach Brendan McClew.

Before McClew was a coach for the Missouri State Ice Hockey team, he was a player. He's known defenseman Derek Smith for about four years.

"He's always tough, he's always battling through some type of injury whether it's his back, his leg, anything, he wants to get out there and do the best he can for the organization," McClew said.

This injury was different. At the team's game on February 7th, Smith took a hit to the thigh.

"He tried to walk it off and tried to go back out there and Jackie kind of gave me the, he's not okay," McClew said.

As Smith's leg started to swell, and Jackie, the team's trainer, learned he had a history of blood clots, she knew he needed to get to the emergency room right away.

"Without Jackie, I would've put him back out there and who knows what would've happened," McClew said.

McClew and the rest of the team say it was the trainer's quick call that might've been what saved Smith's leg.

Turns out, Smith had what's called "compartment syndrome." McClew, also a certified athletic trainer, explained what that means.

"If that pressure gets too big, it can cut off the blood circulation to that extremity and so if you don't have emergency surgery to evacuate that pressure, then you could ultimately lose feelings and have to cut off your leg, which, very scary to think about," McClew said.

He said he preaches to all the athletes, no one knows your body better than you.

"Very fortunate to know your own history, and to be able to provide that to a medical provider in hopes to save your life, or your limb," McClew said.

It's a lesson learned for those who always try to play through the pain.

"It's been tough without him, but as long as he's doing well, that's all that really matters," McClew said.

The Ice Bears are playing back in Springfield this Friday night, and they're hoping Smith will at least be able to come watch the game. McClew said the team is just thankful he is home and on the mend.

The members of the ice hockey team are all student-athletes who pay to play. It's a player-run organization, according to McClew, that does have leadership with a general manager and coaching staff.