It’s been over 10 months since the injury and over 9 since the surgery on the knee. I still haven’t attempted to run on it. I still get pain in the knee. This often occurs after a solid shift at work. The next day it’ll be sore or if I’ve had a big day pushing the double pram around town with the kids that can tend to aggravate it.
You’re probably think when this occurs that it gets me quite down and frustrated, a reminder that this was the cause for end. But surprisingly it isn’t. It’s actually reassuring. Reassuring that I have made the right decision in retiring.
So often I have seen blokes try to come back from career ending injury, yet to no avail.
Blokes who have an unlikely scenario of actually returning, especially considering their age and years of abuse due to playing a contact sport. Yet they find themselves spending months, sometimes years trying to come back. Exhausting themselves not only physically but more so mentally.
Coming back from serious injury can be very mentally challenging, especially when you have a serious setback, that combined with knowing that this injury and how you overcome that will determine whether you are offered a contract, not only at the club you are at, but possibly anywhere else in the world, or even worse and more confronting, whether you will even play the game you loved again. It takes its toll. I have even seen blokes who have played for the Wallabies and suffer a serious injury the following season not being able to find a contract in the world. It’s brutal.
The bloke who I came in for injury cover at the London Harlequins in the 2015-16 season, was expected to overcome his injury that he suffered just after playing in the World Cup in England. He was expected to be fully recovered in time for the start of the preseason for the 2016-17 season. His knee never recovered and he had spent around 18 months trying to get himself right. Having started his rehab running nearly 12 months prior to finally deciding that enough was enough, it was time to hang up the boots. He was fortunate that at least he was still under contract.
Off contract, in a foreign country and being the bread winner with 3 dependents I couldn’t afford the mental and emotional investment with the final outcome being a banged-up knee again. Even if I had gotten as far as getting back on the field, it is highly likely that this would reinjured, as happens so often with these types of injuries and eventually ensure that I would have difficulties even walking in the future, so the specialist informed me.
Of all the things that I thought would end the career, a knee injury was probably the last thing I thought would be the cause. Lots of blokes have recurring issues or injuries that gradually end their career, these generally being knees, ankles or shoulders. Yet I can’t even recall even missing a training session, let alone a game, with a knee injury. I knew injury would probably be the reason that it would end, I simply loved playing in big games too much to give it up. It was a hit/high that I knew would be hard to replicate, and impossible to buy. Some blokes say you that you ‘simply know’ when your time is up. Others find it hard to let go, I dare say I would have been one of these blokes. Apart from the knee, leading up to that the body felt really good, with no issues, strapping or physio treatment needed. Mind you my career had been injury plagued with an array of different injuries.
In saying that I wasn’t enjoying my rugby when the injury occurred, so that made the realisation it was over a lot easier to accept. I had found myself previously in another period during my career previously where I wasn’t enjoying my rugby, but there was a change of scenery and the freshen up made me as hungry as a mongrel junk yard dog on a bone and the drive and enjoyment was back, so I knew that that could be found again. A few other blokes I have spoken to, particularly those that played in Japan, said they went through periods where they weren’t enjoying their rugby and fell out of love with the game and being a professional rugby player, and that a change of scenery reinvigorated their love for the game, especially if they got the opportunity to come home and play in a meaningful competition.
After the quick trip back to Oz for my sister’s wedding, it hurt a lot more than it had previously, mind you 3 days solid on the beers definitely didn’t help this either. It ached after 40 hours transit to get there, then we were there for only 4 days before another 40 hours in transit back to the UK. Doing a bit of walking, definitely not hiking, around the Scottish Highlands where we are currently it still aches when I take certain steps, not all the time necessarily, or at the end of the day after a solid day of walking around checking out the tourist sites.
Every time I get the sensation, I think to myself ‘ah yep, there it is, that’s why’, especially if I have had a few days where I haven’t felt it, just a subtle reminder that I need.
Pain is not good, but it is reassuring. It allows me to have closure, which I think I have accepted, but maybe still haven’t come to terms with… Time will tell.