I believe I have one of the best jobs in the world, to go to work every day with mates and do something I love is a dream result for me. There is a flip side to it of course, like injuries. Long term injuries that restrict you from your everyday life activities and which can have a serious impact on your mental health. Here are a few things I have had to deal with whilst being injured.
Learning to walk again!
Learning how to walk and run properly again was a lot harder than I thought it would be this time around. Trying not to limp, remembering to fire the arse cheeks and walk heel to toe. Even when the pain had gone I still found myself limping, perhaps just out of habit. Running was trickier. I had to remember a few techniques I hadn’t thought about for a while – like arm swing at a 90 degree bend, hand to ears, slight lean forward. I had to re-train the brain to perform these functions again.
Being in isolation away from the team.
The physio team become your new team mates whilst you are injured! You spend a lot of time with them and do your own specific programme while the boys do forwards/backs units outside and their gym for the morning.
While the rest of the team have brunch, I get iced up and treatment. The playing 23 get priority and so they should. While they are doing their afternoon field session, I’m back in the gym to do some more rehab and a bit of conditioning. You might have 1-5 guys in there but you are all doing your own programme. It can be quite boring, I always prefer being outside training with the lads and enjoying the build up to games. In a way, when you’re looking out at the boys from inside the gym, you feel like a kid who’s been put in detention, while everyone else is outside playing!
Daily routine adjustments.
Post op on crutches for 5 weeks can feel like a long process as things you normally do and take for granted become severely limited. There were some big adjustments with my injury. Cleaning and cooking around the house went down to the bare minimum (not that I minded that!). One thing I did miss though was playing with my kids because I’m the one who likes to instigate the fun! When I took them to the soft play area, I couldn’t do anything but watch, our usual games of tag and mako polo were no longer options so I had to change my games! Hide and go seek, making paper airplanes and watching movies were the new go to.
To get to training I had to rely on others for transport, luckily my team mates Halani and AJ didn’t mind the pick-ups and TJ doing the drop offs. Eating habits went out the window depending on what mood I was in. When happy it’s much easier to eat all the healthy stuff but when you’re feeling low, you tend to eat things that make you feel happy for a moment or two.
Having your mind set on a specific date to return can be a motivation to push yourself when you’re doing your rehab, however, when you hit a speed bump that stops you from getting there, frustration starts running high. It can make you start to question yourself, the physio’s, whether you are doing too much or not enough, whether the physio has been giving you the right programmes or treatment. All these negative thoughts start running through your mind. The sapping cycle some may call it! Like most thing if you can keep it positive and ride that phase out you tend to get back on track.
Emotional Roller coaster.
There has been a lot of ups and downs. The amount of mood swings you go through during your injury is like a roller coaster. At the start, you’re nervous, unsure of how the ride is going to be but once you have finished you can look back and appreciate the learnings along the way. During that ride, one thing that is particularly hard to deal with is watching games. I wanted to be out there with the team and its hard knowing there is nothing more I can do than wait. Patience has never been a strength of mine. Seeing improvement in my injury is always a plus as it’s a feeling of progress and getting back to my best. Most days I’m up for it but some days it feels tempting to chuck it all in. Luckily for me I get to wake up next to my kids every morning and they remind me of why I do what I do.
Road to recovery.
The day I stopped using crutches and started to drive again was such an achievement for me as I felt like an independent man again! Especially for not having to rely on my wife to do everything for me and the kids! It has been a long process that has tested my patience (and probably hers!) at times but little wins every day are keeping me positive. I can either feel sorry for myself and make life a misery for all around me, or I can get on the gain train and head north to the promise land.
For me, rugby brings purpose, meaning and structure to my life. I want to set the standard for my kids to follow and for them to know that, difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. They are my purpose and I still have unfinished business that I would like to achieve. So for now I’ll continue life in the graft lane until I am able to play and train again.
‘Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…It’s about learning to dance in the rain.’
Excellent piece Johnny !! From the heart and so relevant in every sense from a professional and personal situation. Let’s get you back on the field buddy !! YOUR TEAM NEEDS YOU !!!