Injury -- What Injury? Fighting the Pain

Photog Ryan McGeeney and gymnast Kerri Strug both toughed out their injuries.

ByABC News
May 20, 2008, 3:59 PM

May 21, 2008 — -- Not even getting a javelin lodged in his leg could stop Utah photojournalist Ryan McGeeney from snapping a photograph of his incredible -- and gruesome -- injury.

The Ogden, Utah, newspaper photographer was covering a high school track championship on Saturday when he got a little too close to the action near the javelin throw event, according to the Associated Press.

While he sat in an area that was off limits to journalists, the tip of a javelin thrown by one of the competitors punctured McGeeney's right leg just below his knee and went straight through to the other side, according to the report.

"I was very lucky that it didn't hit any blood vessels, nerves, ligaments or tendons," McGeeney, who declined to speak directly to, told his own paper, the Standard-Examiner.

Thirteen stitches later, McGeeney is expected to make a full recovery. His photo of the ghastly injury appeared in his paper and others across the country this week.

"It was pretty embarrassing," McGeeney told the paper. "I just felt like a jackass. I wasn't scared. You can tell right away when you're hurt really bad. I just knew I wasn't really injured."

"It wasn't real painful," he said.

But that may not be totally true. Doctors familiar with traumatic injuries told ABC News McGeeney's body likely went through a physical reaction that blocked or drew his attention away from the pain, rather than actually eliminating it.

McGeeney is far from the only person to fight through an injury. Perhaps one of the most notable instances of perseverance during a painful injury was American gymnast Kerri Strug's performance in the 1996 Olympics.

Strug, 18 at the time, helped her team capture a gold medal by nailing a crucial vault -- with a broken ankle.

"In certain situations, you're able to do things that, in normal situations, you wouldn't be able to," Strug told "Yes, my ankle hurt, but I think the will took over the pain."

During her first try at the vault, she had injured her ankle so severely that the gymnast later said she could barely feel her leg before the second attempt. She managed to push through the injury -- and onto the medal podium -- anyway.

"Looking back 12 years later, I have no idea how I did that," added Strug, who now works in the office of juvenile justice in Washington, D.C. "I think it was the adrenaline rush."

She's probably right.

Emergency medicine professionals told that toughing out bad injuries like McGeeney and Strug did is not unusual and is often the result of a strong adrenaline rush that makes the pain seem to disappear.