Finger injuries hinder success for All-American

By Brent Meske, @brentmeskeDE

Holding a 16-pound shot put requires all the power your hand has to offer, and when your throwing hand has three injured fingers, it becomes far more difficult.

Junior thrower Josh Freeman suffered strains in his index, middle and ring fingers during a warm up throw at the Kentucky Invitational on Jan. 17.

Freeman said the injury weakened his hand—inhibiting his throw all season—but he knew it was not serious enough to see a doctor.


“[The training staff and I] dealt with it on our own with strength exercises, ice and heat,” he said. “We knew I couldn’t take time off for it. It was just one of those things you had to work through.”

Freeman certainly worked through the injury, winning six of the eight indoor shot put events he entered including the MVC championship. His only finish outside of the top two was an eighth place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championship on March 14.

But his throw of 18.69 meters still earned him his first first-team All-American award.

Throws coach John Smith said while everyone else was failing in the event, Freeman threw tough and earned the award.

Freeman said he was happy with being All-American even though he never felt comfortable with the shot on his neck and in his hand.

“I can’t complain, I’ve never been a first-team All-American,” he said. “There was so much more there though.”

While working through the finger injuries, Freeman practiced with a protective glove on his throwing hand for four weeks.


Freeman said he pushed himself to practice without the glove, which he could not use in competitions once he got closer to the Missouri Valley Conference and NCAA championships.

“It was a little tough on the hand at first, but it started to come back around” he said. “We thought it would be 100 percent by the NCAA [championships].”

Finishing the indoor season as an All-American stirred up mixed emotions for Freeman.

“I can worry about placing as high as I can because I have that first-team All-American under my belt,” he said. “But it’s still a motivator because I didn’t place as high as I could have.”

Smith said Freeman is a stronger outdoor thrower because he feels his throw better off of concrete instead of plywood.

Freeman has success in the outdoor shot put in his career, winning the MVC championship last season. His throw of 19.86 meters also set the MVC Outdoor Championship shot put record.

Discus is an event added for the outdoor season, and Freeman said he is looking forward to competing in it.

Smith said discus can help Freeman’s shot by focusing on turning cleaner. He said Freeman is throwing the discus better than he has ever seen him, and he could possibly make it to nationals for discus with senior Curtis Wideman.

Freeman said he will set a distance rather than a place as his goal for outdoor shot put.

“The men’s shot put is so strong right now,” he said. “If I can throw 66-feet plus at the national meet, I’ll be happy.”

Smith said Freeman is still two months from being able to hit 66-feet because a hand injury will take a couple more months to get back to full strength. 

Coach Connie Price-Smith said she is happy Freeman is focusing on a distance instead of a rank.

“He can control that and I think it’s the best way for him to go into the season,” she said. “If he does what he is capable of doing, the rest will take care of itself.” 

Brent Meske can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269.