BANGOR, Maine — Soccer is a sport that generally doesn’t require a lot of protective devices for the participant, save for shin guards.
But Cody Cormier’s pregame and pre-practice regimen requires significantly more in the way of preparation — the donning of a back brace and the padding that adds to its safety not only for him but for teammates and opponents alike.
It’s an additional burden the Bangor High School junior midfielder is willing to carry for the chance to get back on the field after being diagnosed last spring with a fracture in his back.
“I’m not really sure how it happened, it just came on slowly during track season in the spring,” he said. “I felt pain so I and went for a couple weeks with muscle stimulation and figured out it was a fracture in my back. I’ve been looking to get back ever since.”
Cormier, who has played on the varsity for the Rams since his freshman year, when he came off the bench to help Bangor win its first Class A state championship, did not have to undergo surgery. But he did have to wear a back brace, initially 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“You can’t really do anything for the back, it’s really a hard area to rehabilitate,” he said. “I’m wearing a bone stimulator to help put some bone back in the fracture area — it sends more blood flow to the area, which in turn sends more calcium to the area.”
Cormier’s back condition improved, but when preseason practices began in mid-August he had to be content with watching from the sidelines and some light jogging in an effort to build his conditioning.
“The first game we played I had him sitting beside me and I asked him to tell me what they were doing,” said Bangor coach David Patterson. “By having him help us coach we wanted to make him feel like he’s a part of everything we were doing.
“But the minute we could get him back on the field we wanted him back because he’s a huge difference-maker for us.”
After undergoing tests at the Boston Childrens’ Hospital, Cormier gained clearance to rejoin the team later in preseason.
“They told me you can go and see what you can do,” he said. “If it hurts, lay off, if you can keep going, keep going.”
Cormier now wears the back brace only when involved in activities such as soccer, and he finally worked his way back into the Rams’ starting lineup last Saturday in a game against Brewer.
“It’s a huge difference having Cody in there,” said Bangor senior back Ryan Larochelle. “It’s another guy that you know when you play him the ball he’s not just going to turn and blast it away. He’s a guy who holds the ball with a guy on his back. He’s patient, then he finds a man to lay it off to. You can tell from watching that game that he controls the middle of the field really well.”
Cormier said after the Brewer game that on a scale of 1 to 10, his comeback is probably at a 7½ or 8.
“A little while ago I was just sitting on the couch or walking, I couldn’t run, I couldn’t really do anything,” said Cormier, who will return to Boston in October for an updated X-ray and bone scan. “It’s been a long process to get back to where I’m almost all the way there.”
Cormier came off the bench during Bangor’s season-opening 3-0 victory at Hampden Academy, then played about 25 minutes in his starting role against Brewer, another 3-0 Bangor win.
“We want to have him out there as much as possible, but at the same time we want to help control his enthusiasm so he doesn’t try to do too much too soon,” said Patterson. “He’s been on a roller coaster emotionally trying to come back from the injury, and we’ve been working on his schedule and reassured him that he’s a huge part of what we’re doing whether that’s standing on the sideline talking to me or out on the field playing.”
Cormier’s return to full strength could have a major impact on Bangor’s pursuit of a second state title in three years. Since he joined the varsity in 2006, the Rams have an overall record of 31-2-2.
“He’s very calm, he’s a leader, he understands how to play the game really well, and athletically he just glides,” said Patterson. “He’s a phenomenal athlete and he’s one of those rare combinations of a really good athlete and someone who’s very smart about the game. Every team needs that kind of player.”