Knee Operation Recovery- Back On The Grass And Return To Training

If you follow my Instagram you may be aware of what has been going on since Christmas. For those who aren’t aware, let me bring you up to speed!


January: Finally Out On The Grass

So when I ended the last update at Christmas (feels like forever ago now), I was really stepping things up but I was still doing all of my work in the gym. Well, not long after the New Year I had a major step in my recovery process.

On the 6th of January, I was able to put my boots on and go for a light jog. As you can imagine, this was a huge step in this journey and a big mental boost for me because, with this jog, I knew I was getting closer to where I wanted to be.

Finally back out on the pitch doing some light jogging. Picture by Tom Mulholland

I’d be lying if I said that my knee felt great in that first 10-minute jog around the pitch. To be honest, it felt horrible and I had doubts over whether it was really up to the simple task of a light jog. However, regardless of the stiffness and discomfort I was feeling in the knee, I knew that it was ready and that my knee would need some time to adjust and “shake off the cobwebs”.

Initially, I had discomfort predominantly across the front of my knee cap but I was told by my physio that this was just down to the inactivity over the last 8 months and that it would soon subside. He was right and I was able to complete the jog and do a little bit of ball work.

The ball work was minimal and was just some technique work with the physio; volleys, half volleys and a few other small technical drills, all back into the physio’s hands. This was done at a pace I felt comfortable with and I am sure my Gran could have done it quicker than I did in that first session!!

With the first session ticked off, I was over the moon and relieved that I was now at a stage where I could put the boots on, go for a jog and feel the ball at my feet once again.

Although it was a massive step in the right direction, I knew that I had a long way still to go.

Doing single-leg hops out on the pitch. Picture by Tom Mulholland

I mentioned previously that plyometrics had been added to my rehab programme before Christmas. I was now able to push on and start to load the legs with more resistance and weight, as the weeks passed by.

I was back in at the club a couple of days of the week and out on the grass with the physio. If I wasn’t out on the grass, I was in the gym doing my strength and plyometrics sessions, alongside some cardio work.

With every week that passed, the knee felt stronger. This was backed up by the increase in the weight I was working with in the gym and results from the tests that I was doing regularly with the physio.

The tests I was going through every 10 days or so were;

  • Single-leg hop and hold (for distance)
  • Single-leg hops over 10 metres (timed)
  • Diagonal single-leg hops, over 10 metres (timed)
  • T-run (timed)

I would perform the single-leg tests on both my right and left leg so that we could see the difference between the injured leg and the “good one”. My results were steadily improving on my injured one and the gap between the good and bad was closing every time.

The T-run. Video by Ricky Hart

February: The Return To Light Training With The Squad

I was coming up to 6 months post-op, 9 since the injury happened, and we were on track which was great. I was building strength in the knee and hamstring, whilst slowly building up my fitness as well. I hadn’t had a pre-season, so I didn’t have that base fitness that players will have after completing the ‘dreaded pre-season’.

Throughout the recovery, I made sure that I was looking after myself as best possible and trying to maintain a basic level of fitness throughout the recovery, through; static bike, rowing machine, battle ropes and HIIT sessions.

With my injury, I was obviously limited to what I could do, but all of those sessions definitely helped in conditioning my body to be able to handle that transition into the running sessions.

Working alone whilst the team train is mentally hard. Picture by Tom Mulholland

Running and working on the side of the pitch, whilst the team are training is always tough because you want nothing more than to be out there with them. Although it can be demoralising, it also serves as a great motivation. It increases that desire to get back in and amongst the squad and back into training.

For me, that day was early February. I had already done the warm-up with the team before the televised game with Chesterfield, but the following Monday I was back in training as the “floater”.

The floater, or magic man as some like to call it, is a player who in small-sided practices plays for both teams. Using a floater in a session is normally to help solve the problem of odd numbers, or in my instance, to slowly transition a player back into training after an injury layoff.

It was a great feeling doing the warm-up before the Chesterfield game. Picture by Graham Scambler

February: My Visit To St. Georges Park, England’s HQ

If you are a member of the PFA (Professional Footballer’s Association), you are entitled to three 4-day visits to St. Georges Park to work with a company called Game Changer Performance at any stage of your rehabilitation from an injury.

The physio at Eastleigh organised for me to go up to St. Georges Park for 4 days. With me being back in training for a couple of weeks, albeit as a floater mostly, this trip to St. Georges Park was a chance for me to be put through my paces and various strength tests by the team there.

If the physios and strength and conditioning staff at GCP were satisfied with how my knee was performing, I was hoping to get the clearance to play and continue what we were already doing at the club.

With it being the base for the England national teams, I was more than aware of the state of the art facilities and equipment, so I was looking forward to visiting.

The week flew by and after a very tough and intense few days, my stay at St. Georges Park was over. I had come through all of the sessions and tests with no problems and left feeling even more confident within my knee and hamstring. The staff had also written up a report on all of my test results and the work I had been doing in the week. This report also included a rehab and a strength programme that I could continue to do going forward.

A compilation of clips from my week at St. Georges Park

February: Returning To Full Training

Upon returning to Eastleigh, I had a meeting with the surgeon on the Monday afternoon. We sat down and spoke about how I was feeling, how the knee felt and then he had a look at the knee going through some tests.

He was really pleased with how “sturdy” it felt and said how well I had done so far to get to this point. He advised me to take my time and build things up without rushing into anything too soon and this was something that had already been discussed with the physio. I had come this far, the last thing I needed was a setback!

It was then straight back into full-contact training. I had completed a few full-contact sessions, (no more floater) before heading to St. Georges Park. I thought I might be a little tentative and protective of my knee in the first few sessions, but I found that once I was in the session and adrenaline was pumping, I didn’t think twice when going in for tackles and headers etc.

Alongside training, I was making sure that I was staying on top of my rehab and all of my strength exercises for my knee and hamstring, to ensure I didn’t suffer any setbacks at this late stage. Even though I was back in training and no longer classed as injured, I knew that I had to continue to do all of the things that had put me in this position of being back training.

It was just a great feeling to be back in training and amongst the boys. When you’re out injured, especially a long-term one, it can become very hard to feel a part of the group when you aren’t able to contribute on the pitch.

You can sometimes feel like an outsider when watching on from the sidelines. Picture by Tom Mulholland

Early March: So Close, Yet So Far!

The club had progressed to the Hampshire Cup semi-final and it was agreed that I would play 45-60 minutes to help build up my match fitness.

As you can imagine, I couldn’t wait for that first game and to finally put the last 9 months behind me. With every training session, gym session and extra running I was doing after training, I was feeling fitter, stronger and as if my body was finally getting into the rhythm of training.

Everything felt good until this training session. Picture by Tom Mulholland

However, exactly a week before the game I felt something in my calf towards the end of training. I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t felt anything, other than the aches and sore muscles from my body re-adjusting to training.

I tried to continue but the pain was getting worse the more I tried to run it off. In my head, I knew that something wasn’t right but my pride wouldn’t allow me to come off of the pitch. I called over to the physio on the side of the pitch to tell him that I had felt something, so he told me to come off but I couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t face the humiliation and embarrassment of being injured again. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, but if you ask any player how they felt when they have returned from an injury and then got injured again, they would describe that sense of embarrassment I was feeling.

So by now, I am limping around but with the ball up the other end of the pitch, only a few players have realised. A couple of minutes later the session finishes and I immediately walk off of the pitch and head in, whilst the team come together for a debrief and cool down.

My head was all over the place. So many thoughts were racing through my mind and I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone.

One of the thoughts I had was, “All of my hard work since injuring my knee had been undone”. Picture by Tom Mulholland

Back in the physio room, the physio assessed it and I then iced it. I was sitting in total silence staring into thin air, whilst a million negative thoughts were bouncing around my head. A scan was arranged so that we knew what we were dealing with.

I was told by numerous people over the next couple of days that after returning from a big injury, as I had, it was normal to pick up little niggles. However, hearing this didn’t make me feel any better about myself and the situation.

The following Tuesday, when I should have been preparing for my first game in 9 months, I had my scan. The club received the results 48 hours later…

I had two grade 1 tears in my calf. In terms of severity, this was the best we could have hoped for considering the circumstances.

This was a setback that I didn’t want and certainly didn’t need! I was expecting setbacks throughout this recovery but to get one when I felt so good and so close to the end, was a bitter pill to swallow.

With my contract up at the end of the season, I was hoping to be back involved in matchday squads and get some game time. We also have a new manager, so whilst out injured he’s not able to see me play and train which is incredibly frustrating because he is the man I need to impress to earn a new contract.

Although I am still feeling low about the setback, I am focused and determined to get back on the pitch. It’s been a long 10 months since the injury happened. I have to remain patient and do everything that I can in the gym, to ensure that I am back as strong as possible for the end of the season. I can only control the controllable’s and right now that is working hard and trying to remain as positive as possible.

Trying to keep a smile on my face is difficult at the moment. Picture by Tom Mulholland

It would be easy to lose hope and give up, but that’s not going to get me to where I want to be! Always remember… ‘Never too high. Never too low.’


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2 thoughts on “Knee Operation Recovery- Back On The Grass And Return To Training

  1. Sorry to hear of your setback. The team really could use your experience right now. Let’s hope you get a chance to impress the new manager asap….both from your personal point of view and the club’s.

    Like

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