I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for some time, so here I am. It stems from wanting to share some of the experiences we go through as rugby players no holds barred, and my recent dealings with the surgeons knife seems like the perfect place to start.
Last Monday I underwent surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in my midfoot. What at first seemed like quite an innocuous sprain and something that could be managed, has escalated into surgical intervention and six months on the sidelines.
This is the first long term injury I’ve sustained in my professional career. At twenty-eight years old, I'm an anomaly of professional rugby. I’ve dodged a few injury bullets over the years, strains and knocks that have dissipated over time, and that has definitely helped me rationalise and process this setback.
It’s been ten long days since surgery in London, and I’ve been back at my mums cottage in the arse end of nowhere in Buckinghamshire, dodging low ceiling beams and two rather boisterous Cockapoos. I’m house bound the vast majority of the time, with a couple of trips out for coffee and lunch. It’s my right foot, so annoyingly I wont be able to drive for at least two months which is going to take a little while to process.
I thought the best way of structuring this post would be to talk through some topics that everyone faces post surgery, and reveal that it isn’t anymore glamorous for professional athletes.
For the first few days it was quite easy to conceive that a metal plate and screws had been inserted into my foot. A lot of swelling, throbbing, and general agony if the foot is not constantly elevated. For the first week the key is to try and remove the swelling from the foot, and sadly there is no better way than lying in bed with your foot propped up by pillows. Despite one incident with one of the dogs jumping onto it in excitement (It hasn't been put down, despite my protests) I’ve managed to keep it out of trouble. It has improved everyday, so far so good.
Before I went under the knife, I’d asked some of my colleagues who are well versed in the surgery process for any top tips. A constantly repeated instruction was to ask for stronger pain relief than the nurses initially give you, as paracetamol and a small dose of codeine will not suffice. I put in my request, and in turn received a fast acting and slow releasing oxycodone. I’ve watched a few documentaries on the pitfalls of prescription drugs (Prescription Thugs on Netflix is definitely worth a watch), and I can tell you from personal experience, it’s some serious stuff. Initially the oxycodone, supplemented with cocodamol worked extremely well. The pain was tolerable, and it allowed me to sleep roughly fourteen hours a day, which is the best way of passing the time post surgery. Then on Friday morning I decided that the pain had subsided to a manageable level, and enough was enough. What followed was thirty-six hours of hallucinations, fever, and vomiting. You name a side effect I had it. I went cold turkey, and in hindsight a weaning off process would be far more advisable.
I’d taken the decision not to be too strict on my diet for the first two weeks. In my mind there was no point fighting the inevitable muscle wastage, and seeing as I was able to escape the nutritionist and his body fat callipers for a few weeks without reprimand, then why not. What I wasn't prepared for was the speed at which my body has changed. Within a week whatever form of tone and lean body mass I had has disappeared, and looking in the mirror my body now resembles a pasty block of ham. My friends and teammates will argue that I didn't have a decent “rig” in the first place, but it feels as though the small amount of muscle I had has slipped from my shoulders and arms, softened up on the journey down, and settled on my love handles. The rate at which this has occurred is quite startling, and does not bode well for retirement.
I’ve been very well looked after by my mother, younger sister and girlfriend. If left to fend for myself I’m not sure what kind of mess I’d end up in. I haven’t spent more than a few days at home for a number of years, and it’s been really nice to spend some time with my mum and little sister, although I’m sure she’d disagree. I’ve returned to infant levels of dependence (they would argue I never advanced past that stage) and it’s a bloody nightmare. Cooking, showering (not by my mum or sister, thank goodness) and general domestic duties have proved challenging and everyone has been more than obliging. I simply sit in my grandad chair in the living room shouting meal requests into the kitchen, or phoning down from my bedroom for a cup of tea. Nevertheless, I feel another week of this and I may be pushing my luck, judging from my sister’s deteriorating meal presentation and 'resting bitch face'.
The last few days have been a lot better as the pain has subsided, but for the first five days I spent the majority of my time asleep. I’m still limited to my chair in the living room or bed, but now that I’m not in a vegetative state, the levels of boredom have become perilous. Despite a couple of friends visiting, and having all three of my siblings around this past weekend, I’m spending a lot of time lying around on my own.
TV and YouTube isn't quite cutting the mustard. There’s only so many episodes of Man vs Food a guy can watch, and I certainly haven't seen an improvement in what is being offered with the full buffet Sky package, despite the extortionate price. The hardest part to deal with is in the evening when my mother and sister venture in to the living room and watch I’m a Celebrity, or as I affectionately call it, “The shittest show on TV”.
I’ve been working away on some projects outside of rugby, writing this blog and setting up my website, but I need exercise. Right now I’d settle for a moon boot and a walk with the dogs, I’m not asking for a rugby units session, but it’s amazing how quickly you miss the endorphins and just being at the training ground with the lads.
I’m returning to training next Tuesday, just over two weeks post surgery. I imagine I’ll be put into a moon boot but still restricted to crutches, and thrust back into the gym for some modified sessions with the rest of the long term injured players. There are some real characters in that group led by the affable Alex Rieder, so it wont be short of a laugh or two. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.