Magic Sponge: One Month On

Photo: Dream Team

By Mark Docherty


One month ago today I underwent Anterior Cruciate Ligament reconstruction and began the long road to recovery from one of football’s most feared injuries. Due to the fact that my level of football is little more than recreational Sunday league, my injury didn’t quite make it onto the BBC Sport website and was not reported on Sky Sports News. However, it is often forgotten that amateur sportsmen are subject to exactly the same injuries and ailments as those at the very top of their game. For those who are interested, the first instalment of my recovery can be found here.

Image: The Micheli Centre

After a successful surgery, I was effectively bedridden for the first couple of weeks, with any explorations out of bedroom heavily aided by crutches. After about three weeks I was able to return to college and soon after that I was able to move around without crutches – albeit significantly slower than normal. I am still unable to return to my job as a waiter, but have managed to attend a couple of Portsmouth matches in the last week meaning that my daily life is not greatly affected at this stage of the recovery process.

Having read all this one might think that the professionals really don’t have it much better than anybody else. To be able to return to near normal life after just a single month is remarkable progress and is something that any professional footballer would be more than happy with. However, though I am eternally grateful to those at the NHS for their care which has enabled me to get back on my feet far sooner than I expected, the difference between the treatment amateur players and professional ones get comes after the operation.

Private specialist healthcare afforded to professional footballers, as well as a plethora of club doctors and physiotherapists, means that they can begin rehabilitation immediately after surgery. They receive care for several hours every day when they are injured, and have to worry about nothing other than getting back to their best physical condition. The facilities available to players are also second to none. Every player will be able to use a club gym to strengthen their body after the surgery and help from endless massages, whereas the regular citizen must concentrate on other aspects of life ahead of their recovery.

I am actually very fortunate that I do not need to worry about holding down a full time job during my recovery period, and will be able to use the several months after my A levels this summer to concentrate fully on strengthening my leg. Once I return to work I will also be able to set about saving for a gym membership which will further aid my rehabilitation, but most adults who are seriously injured have the amount of time and money available to spend on rehabilitation greatly limited by the fact that they must prioritise work and family.

Physiotherapy is another aspect where professionals have a huge head start over members of the public. When I was released from hospital I was handed a booklet with three or four exercises I should do to regain movement in my knee, but as yet that is as far as my physiotherapy has gone. While top players will have been doing sessions with the best physios in the world from day one, I will have my first appointment with a NHS physio next week. I also feel it is unlikely that I will be able to strengthen my knee on the underwater treadmills which have become commonplace for injured footballers to recover from injury. The advantage that this gives footballers is summed up by the fact that, if I remember correctly, 35 year old Zlatan Ibrahimović tweeted a video of himself kickboxing at similar stage of his recovery at the same point as I am about to have my first session.

Photo: MUFC

I want to stress that this article is not intended to be a series of complaints about my luck or to demean the treatment of the NHS. I reiterate: I am hugely thankful for the treatment I have been given. In documenting my recovery I merely aim to emphasise how lucky professionals are to have the high levels of care available, when the pressures on the NHS at present make it simply impossible for similar priority to be given to everyone. Though it is somewhat lagging behind that of professional players, I am still pleased with how my recovery is progressing and look forward to getting back to full fitness.

One month down, eight to go.