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Healing Hobbs – Part 2: How bad can it be?

Sorry it’s taken a while to bring this 2nd instalment to you. Life has been busy with the welcoming of my baby daughter to the world! But back to it…

There I am lying on the ground staring up to the clouds having suffered a 2nd knee buckling.

I knew I’d done some damage to my knee but just how bad it was I had no way of knowing.

As I discussed in part 1, I’m no stranger to a ruptured ACL and having been through the whole process before, I was confident I could draw on the experience to determine if the symptoms were the same. But all this meant was that I was about to enter a constant see-saw of is it / isn’t it torn for the next 48 hours.

The first test was weight bearing through the heel. 1st time around, any weight through the heel would result in severe pain and an instant give out of the knee.

This time around, slight pain but bearable. My immediate thought, “nah can’t be torn”.

Second test, the shower. Post injury 1, I could barely make it to the changing rooms let alone shower. I had to essentially sit on the floor of the shower or lean on the walls to be able to do anything. This time around, I could at least walk to the showers. Getting undressed proved to be much harder as by that time the adrenaline had worn off and I was feeling pain in the back of the knee when trying to bend it. Try taking boots and socks off when you can’t bend your knee without pain, it sucks. This was my first real dose of “you’ve probably torn it”.

After the game ended I went to a teammates house for a BBQ and knew immediately I needed to get my leg elevated with ice on it. As I sat there with ice on my knee I now started to think about what this injury was going to do to my life.

Firstly, the timing. It couldn’t of been worse. On the day of my injury I was precisely 2 months away from the due date of my first child. Now thinking back to injury 1, the surgeon told me that they do ACL surgery in 2 time frames; either immediately or after 6 months. That’s simply due to managing swelling and making your knee ready for surgery through pre-hab. Only in severe cases do they seem to want to operate immediately. So for me, having a torn knee and surgery immediately would mean being on crutches and unable to help my wife out with the baby. Not ideal. Option 2 would mean being on crutches in the months where baby is starting to crawl and be mobile. Again not an ideal time to be on crutches.

It’s all fine for me to compute these things in my head but it suddenly became a bit more serious when my wife did the sums in her own head, and gave me that look of pure anger as she realised what it would mean for her.

For any britballer who has a significant other, and who has been through an injury has probably had to field the multiple comments of “maybe it’s time you gave up”. It’s something that had been said to me each time I suffered an injury. I’ve always said I’d give up playing when 1 of the following 2 things happen:

  1. Doctors say they can’t fix me or advise me to stop
  2. I can no longer compete for a place on the field when compared to the younger guys coming through.

The truth of the matter is, football is my life. I have made so many good lasting friends playing this sport, and it is one of the few things in life I am good at. I am not ready to give that up yet and that means enduring the pressure from my wife and family to give up when I get injured.

They say I can get into coaching, which I already do, but I’m not ready for that to be my total deal. I have the rest of my life to coach, and until either option 1 or 2 come true, I’m prepared to work through whatever I need to do to be on that field doing what I love the most.

Injury pressure aside, I have the baby to consider. My wife is going to want me around at the weekends to help take the pressure off. We may want to spend Sundays at the zoo or beach? Or simply my mind-set might simply be, I’d rather spend time with my family than play football.

Maybe the injury is the catalyst I need to make that shift?

The truth is, any sports person in any sport has to wrangle with the pressure and decision of when to step away. It’s a situation that is unique to each individual. All I knew in the days after the injury, I’m not letting this beat me, but I respect all of those that chose different paths.

One thing that is so often ignored in Britball is having your own personal insurance.

We all know that the league insurance is basic at best, and barely covers anything. Least of all earnings loss for time out of work. Anyone who plays should invest in their own.

I am very lucky that a benefit of my current job includes private medical care. And in situations like mine, it is worth its weight in gold!

Now being an older, more experienced player, I always make sure I have a physio appointment booked for the day after a match. Generally this is used for recovery massage, or as in this case, diagnosis of potential injuries. As I arrived hobbling to the session the physio gave me a look of “what have you done now”. I was hoping she would do the ACL test and tell me all seemed ok. But she didn’t. Her exact words were, “There is some laxity there, I’m only 50% confident you haven’t bust it”. Not what you want to hear at 9am on a Monday morning.

The issue is, in order for my insurance to kick in and have an appointment with a specialist or get an MRI, there is an excess of £100. So I needed to know there was enough suspicion for a tear to justify the spend. So I decided to seek a 2nd opinion with the physio at work.

She again tested the knee, and said “you know what; I think there is definitely something wrong”. The problem was the swelling. The swelling, with the injury so fresh was adding fake resistance to the tests. The only way to know for sure was to get in MRI.

God bless private medical care!

Not knocking the NHS, but I was able to call and book for a consultancy with a specialist, an MRI and a results follow up all within the same week.

The consultancy was tough. Walking in, hoping he would say everything was ok. I barely had a limp at this stage and I was sure it was just a sprain, again comparing it to the time before.

However, within minutes of examining it, phrases such as “significant damage” & “surgery” were being banded around and I was staring down both barrels of another ACL reconstruction.

Straight down for an MRI and back in on the Friday for the results.

If anyone has been through these appointments then you know the feeling I’m about to describe. Sitting across from the doctor, almost waiting for him to tell you only have a week to live.

What is the wife going to say? What’s work going to say? Then he starts talking…

“I’m going to get straight to the point. You’ve torn your ACL. There is significant damage, with at least a 50% tear of the ACL, with the remaining bundle probably also compromised. The medial meniscus is also showing a trauma/tear which will require surgery to fix”.  

There it was. The worst possible news. Just like that my season was over and another surgery awaits. You sit there with a lump in your throat because despite the fact you knew you’d done damage, you still had hope you hadn’t. And now begins the process of prehab and surgery prep. Ill cover what that entailed in my next instalment!

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