Ben Cairns – ‘How quickly things in professional sports can change’
A bit of background
Ben sustained a seriously bad tear to his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in a pre season match against Sale Sharks in August 2011. Ben begins his story leading into his first week of full training at the start of December 2011.
I came back into full training feeling very confident on my knee, I was so relieved to have escaped the first episode without the need for full reconstruction and my knee was feeling really strong going back into training with the guys.
In order to get to this stage I had come through many hours of rehab as well as a full strength and conditioning program to get me in the best shape possible to return to play. This included a ton of proprioception work, lots of conditioning games and a fair bit of controlled contact work. All the boxes had been ticked and the next step was full training.
The first session was indoors, but it still included a degree of contact work and again my knee felt good, with no indication of any weakness. Next up was a session at a local rugby ground as our pitches weren’t playable and although the ground wasn’t great I had no reservations going into the session. The first few drills went well before moving onto some contact work. It was a conditioned game, which involved playing a few phases before stopping and resetting. I was on the attacking side and was heavily involved, getting my hands on the ball at every opportunity. I received the ball at first receiver, passed wide and followed in support round the corner. I then received the ball back on a loop play and went through a gap.
Accelerating, I could see the full-back coming up to close me down. A decision had to be made as to whether to try and step him or prepare myself to ‘win the contact’. I chose the second option, and as I did this I felt my right knee ‘give way’, I was then hit by the full-back and hopped back on my right leg. My knee felt horrible, the only way to describe it is it was like jelly, it felt as if it wobbled backwards, forwards left and right all at the same time and so I hit the deck.
I now realise I just had to grin and bear it until the pain subsided. What felt like hours, was in reality only about five minutes until the pain started to dissipate, and with the help of a few staff and team mates I made it off the field and into the back of a car. I returned to our usual training base and into the physio area where I waited to find out when I would get a scan. The knee was already very swollen and I had resigned myself to the fact I would be spending a major length of time out of the game.
I knew straight away that it was my ACL and in a strange way I hoped this time it had completely ruptured. Mentally it would have been a lot tougher to deal with if the consultant and physio had again recommended a period of rehabilitation rather than reconstructive surgery.
It’s amazing how quickly things in professional sports can change and this was a perfect example.
The scan results came back and it was as suspected a full rupture of the ACL, the good news was there didn’t seem to be any other issues with the knee which is usually the case due to trauma the knee sustains and was the case the first time round. The next step would be to speak with the consultant with a view to having the reconstructive surgery the following week. This is to allow enough time for the swelling to reduce and to get the knee in the best shape possible pre-op. The idea being that the better the condition of the knee pre-op the faster the knee will recover post-op. I was therefore determined to do everything possible to get my knee into good shape and this was my main driver through this period.
In my next post I will speak about how I prepared myself for surgery and the surgery itself. I hope you found this interesting, if you have any questions or comments then just ask below and either I or one of the Coach Logic team will get back to you.
Until next time,