The last two months have included a series of emotional moments for Dublin Coffman High School junior Gunnar Hoak.

The last two months have included a series of emotional moments for Dublin Coffman High School junior Gunnar Hoak.

On Feb. 16, last season's Division I district Player of the Year in football was among the standouts at quarterback in the Best of the Midwest combine in Indianapolis.

Then a week later, he returned to another of his passions -- baseball -- when the Shamrocks held their first practice of the season.

With Division I college football programs starting to line up in an attempt to land his signature as part of their 2016 recruiting class, Hoak's journey took an unexpected turn during Coffman's baseball opener March 31 at home against Grove City.

Attempting to catch a fly ball, Hoak collided, face-first, with the brick wall in right field.

The immediate impact -- some shattered teeth, a broken nose and multiple fractures to his left orbital area, but with a full recovery expected -- would be tough to stomach for any athlete.

Imagine, though, if the injury had become life-threatening, or if he would have sustained a major injury to his right throwing arm while playing his secondary sport.

While specialization has continued to grow at the prep level, particularly for athletes who believe they have a college future, being a multi-sport athlete like Hoak still is commonplace.

And it's often the health -- or lack thereof -- of the most talented athletes that can dictate so much.

The Hartley football team became the only central Ohio team to win at least two playoff games in each of the last five seasons when it reached a Division V state semifinal last fall, and several multi-sport athletes were at the center of its success.

However, injuries during the playoffs to seniors Jack Zang and Tayron Washington not only hindered their hopes of continuing their seasons, they kept them from competing in the winter sports in which they would have been key contributors.

Zang is a former district wrestling qualifier who was robbed of one final shot at making state, while Washington missed out on helping the Hawks win a boys basketball district title.

Similar situations played out at Worthington Kilbourne and Coffman in other sports over the past few months.

At Kilbourne, senior Griffin Dahn went down with a season-ending football injury last September. After going through nearly three months of rehabilitation, he made his season debut in late December for the boys basketball team.

Senior Sade Olatoye, who likely has a college future in track and field, got hurt while playing basketball last July and missed nearly all of her season with the Coffman girls team before returning in February.

Olatoye already is out to a strong start in the shot put and discus this spring as she looks to defend her state titles in both events, but the Shamrocks girls basketball team could have done even better than its 20-6 record and district runner-up finish had she been healthy all season.

Still, the way Hoak sees it, athletes who constantly worry about whether they might get injured shouldn't be playing.

"I play sports because I love to compete and I love to be around my teammates," he said. "There are many life lessons through sports. Accidents are just that -- accidents. ... I just enjoy the competition."

While it might seem logical that multi-sport athletes are more at risk for injury simply because their activity level is higher, a major injury can happen at any time regardless of sport.

Also, there is much to be gained from participating. Teams create memories and provide a family atmosphere that helps young athletes mature into adulthood, not to mention the sheer enjoyment of competing.

There might be painful times physically and emotionally, but imagine how good it felt for Dahn and Olatoye when they returned to competition and how it's going to feel for Hoak when he gets back on the field.

Those are the moments that make the risk of injury worth the reward.