Fortunately, professional players can expect and receive great support from physios and strength and conditioning teams to make sure they return to the game as quickly as possible and in the best shape.
Torquil Dick (aka ‘Dicky’), one of the physiotherapists at London Irish, explained the process players go through after suffering an injury. “If they have a matchday injury, we normally wait until the next day to assess players as often they’re full of adrenalin after a game and they don’t think their body is hurting too much.
“In the initial stage, the doctor will decide whether the player needs an operation or not. Then depending on the injury, the player’s recovery is usually physiotherapy led for the first 6-8 weeks, and then the next 3-4 weeks focuses on strength and conditioning.”
The Exiles Academy hooker, Gerard Ellis, needed an operation for a knee cartilage repair after an A League game at Sunbury earlier this season.
“With Gerard we knew straight away it was pretty bad because he couldn’t move his knee and it was locked in position.
“His knee is now physically all healed but he is still not ready to play rugby yet. It will take another 3-4 weeks and when he feels he is ready and when the Club feels he can handle the hits taken in a game, he’ll be back in action.”
So how does a player deal with the impact of an injury and having to watch from the side lines?
Ellis recalls his reaction when he injured his knee.
“At first it was a massive blow as when you sign for a club you want to play for them week in, week out, but a few weeks after the operation I had come to terms with it.
“When a physio like Dicky writes up a schedule and a detailed plan to follow, then there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You have a schedule to try and keep to, and for me I always wanted to try and knock a couple weeks off of it which we have managed to do.
“Because it’s a lower body injury it doesn’t stop me for throwing or doing upper body exercises, so from that perspective there is motivation to come back a better player.”
The rehabilitation team at Irish are aware of the challenges facing professional players when recovering from injury.
Dicky adds: “Part of your training as a physio helps you understand why these players are going to be down. Some days Gerrard wants to scrummage and play rugby and some days he doesn’t feel like doing anything.
“You learn when to push players forward and when to pull them back from doing too much.”
The physio explained how rehab targets are set around each playing position and the physical qualities they need on the pitch:“Because of Gerard’s position as a hooker he runs about 5-6km in a game, but a limited amount of that is actually flat out. A hooker will generally sprint only about 40-50 metres in a game and the rest is just plodding along so we have to get the miles under his legs before he returns. As a hooker you also need explosive power so the strength and conditioning team have to work on that in the run up to his return.
“It’s a team effort between the players, coaching staff, and the rehabilitation team to get the players fully rehabilitated as quickly as possible.”
Yarde, Paice and Allison are due to return to action in February, and Ellis is hopeful to make his return at some point this month. Aulika is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury and is due to return in March.
With ten matches still to play in the Aviva Premiership plus additional games in the Amlin Challenge and LV Cup for the Exiles, the nature of rugby implies there are likely to be more injuries before the end of the season.
But you can rest assured that with the determined nature of the recovering players and the rehab team at Irish, the squad are in safe hands to make a full and healthy recovery.
By Lucy Lomax