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Luke Shaw's injury is a reminder of how fleeting a footballer's career really is

Manchester United's left back was turning into a star. Now he might never be the same.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

"I don't want to see it."

This was the repeated sentiment between fans after Luke Shaw's trailing leg was snapped and twisted from a late and reckless challenge by Hector Moreno, as the Manchester United fullback burst his way into the opposition's box. Shaw writhed in pain as his leg hung, zig-zagged, from his torso. He suffered a double fracture that likely ends his season. Moreno escaped without a card.

The truth is that it's not just this season that's in jeopardy for the United man. In that split second between Moreno's tackle and the resultant injury, hung the hopes, dreams and future endeavors of the young defender. The story isn't new: talented youngster starts to fulfill his potential only to have his progress cut short by an injury that ultimately leads to further complications down the line. Shaw only needs to look at his English compatriot Jack Wilshere, who is about to have surgery, for what feels like the 100th time, to see how hard and trying the road can be.

He may never be the same again. The ceiling of his potential in that one bleak moment was forever lowered. The trajectory of his career forever altered. And it is not too dubious to infer that far after he has recovered from the physical tolls of the injury, the fight to regain the confidence required for a top class defender will be a much harrowing campaign.

Shaw has battled injuries before and he had won for the most part. In his first season at United, he fell victim to at least nine separate setbacks, ranging from hamstring strains to knee discomfort. In fact,  from his time atSouthampton till the latest event, Shaw has suffered 21 injuries total, not including illnesses. Most were muscular and mild, and the shattered leg is the obvious worst of the entire collection.

The fact that he's overcome the culmination of the previous ones, along with the elephant in the room -- his weight issues -- is a testament to the character of the player. When Louis Van Gaal made public comments about the Shaw not looking after himself properly and after the indignity of being put on a special training regime to lose weight, he reacted in a perfect manner. He enlisted a personal trainer to shadow him, even flying the designated individual with him on away trips. He rose to the challenge of the occasion, and, so far this year, it seemed that he had solved the puzzle. He was back, if not better than his previous best.

Then a sickening crunch from a terrible tackle at the quarter of the hour in his Champions League debut darkened what looked to be a bright career. For all of the cliched musings of hard work, effort and the ability to face challenges that comes with being a professional athlete, few words can truly prepare the wounded for the depression and solemnity of a long injury layoff. The prospect of losing out on the ideal life. The lonely antechamber of the mind where doubt begins to sow its seeds. And the sobering realization that it could all be over at such a young age. Because of a freak accident, a bad decision that the affected had no control over.

Shaw, according to Van Gaal, was in tears while breathing through an oxygen mask after the match.

For all of the strengthening of the muscles and the countless hours spent on relentless skill and mental training, the unfortunate reality remains that the bones are still as frangible as ever. And these players are constantly put at risk every second that they're on the pitch, whether in a Champions League game or in a two-on-two duel in a recovery training session. At any moment, it could all be gone.

As much as Moreno should have been punished for the tackle, it would have only been retroactive. While the footballing world has done much and is still doing much more to eliminate bad plays such as that, it will forever remain a part of the game. It's the unfortunate gospel that comes with having strong, able athletes moving, thinking and performing at ridiculous speeds against other strong and able entities. It's practically unavoidable. If not Shaw, then someone else.

That fact doesn't make it easier. It never gets easier. It's a truth that the public and even the players would much rather avoid. How can you perform or even begin to enjoy the game if the prospect of a broken foot, a sprained ankle or a shattered leg overwhelms your mind? For the player, it would inhibit his ability to perform and the fan would be in a perpetual state of heart-in-stomach at every minute.

I don't want to see it. For all the understanding of the queasiness of the situation, the underlying message in the expression is still difficult. The Shaw situation is a shock of just how fleeting glory is for these players. That in any given moment, a boy that has worked and triumphed against his own body and the jeer and expectations of the outside world can go from enjoying the best year of his career to gawking pitifully at a surgeon, looking for any slight indication of hope to cling onto.

Shaw could very well recover from this and continue from where he left off when he returns, and that is certainly the desire of most, but the road has certainly grown more difficult. It's unfair to the audience, to his team and, most of all, to the young man that his life and career could forever be diminished in the blink of an eye.


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