Monday 5 December 2016

Almost ready to make my return after shorter-than-expected rest

Denis Buckley

Published 08/01/2016 | 02:30

Connacht’s Finlay Bealham, left, and Aly Muldowney in training. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile
Connacht’s Finlay Bealham, left, and Aly Muldowney in training. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile

After a frustrating end to 2015, the new year has brought new hope to me in my recovery from ankle surgery. At this stage, three and a half weeks on from the operation I'm a good bit ahead of schedule.

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I am back running already, so all going well, the plan is to be back and available for selection within the next two weeks.

The original prognosis was 12 weeks out, then it moved to eight, but I'm more or less good to go after almost four weeks. I must be one of the lucky ones that heal quickly.

After picking up the injury in the Munster game and resting for two weeks, I knew something wasn't right. I went in for a scan and it revealed a bit more damage than we had expected. The specialist was pretty sure that the best route was to get the operation and that the injury was not going to go away by itself.

The operation halted any plans I had for a quick return though. It was okay, I was in and out on the same day and for the four or five days afterwards I went home to Roscommon and spent some quality time on the couch. I couldn't bear any weight at all on my foot.

Once the next week started, I was straight in with the physios in Connacht. Getting out of the boot was a big thing, you have to force yourself to put as much weight as you can on the ankle, try to free up the mobility in there in order to accelerate the healing process.

Range

Achieving that range of movement in the ankle was a huge lift. It is really painful trying to push through the pain and swelling, but it seems to have paid off so far. It is a mental challenge more than anything and it was a really tough few days.

Once I got back walking without the boot and the crutches my rehabilitation took off. I was able to get back and do a bit of cardio work, I did some bike work to start off, and then last week I went to Action Physio in Athlone to do a session on their AlterG treadmill.

The AlterG is an anti-gravity treadmill, and you can set a particular percentage of your body-weight to work at. It's like the bottom half of your body is in an airtight bubble and that way you can regulate the amount of air around you.

I started off at about 60pc and by the end of the session I was back between the 80 and 90pc marks, which was brilliant. To get that bit of jogging into the body was no harm at all, considering that I was a few weeks off my feet.

After that I was able to do a bit more bike work, some rowing, some weights and then I was able to return fully to my lower body work early this week.

On top of all that in the evenings I have been using a Game Ready machine, which controls the temperature and compression around the injury. You strap it on your ankle, fill it with ice and it pumps freezing cold water across the ankle.

It is a great tool for controlling the swelling, which is vital in the recovery process, but I have ended up playing a lot more PlayStation than usual in the last few weeks. All you can do is sit there when you have it on, so I may as well be entertaining myself!

While I'm delighted to be on the verge of a return to training, looking at the way the lads have been going without me in the scrum, I know I'm up for a real battle to get back into the starting line-up.

Finlay Bealham has shown what he's capable of on the loosehead side once he gets a good run of games, and Ronan Loughney is back in there too and is always a real force. I know I had a good run before the injury, but I'm well aware that I have no right to go straight back in either. I'll have to earn the jersey again.

A few people around the country might have been surprised to see four Connacht players in the Ireland squad, but none of us were too shocked.

Robbie, Kieran and Nathan were shoo-ins in my eyes, but I was especially delighted for Ultan Dillane to get in there, he is such a talented guy.

He has worked so hard on the basics of his game, his lineout and scrummaging have come on hugely, that he deserves a call up. And with all the injuries Ireland have in the second-row, you'd never know what could come his way.

To be honest, he is such a physical fella in training; it was no harm for him to be hitting players from the other provinces rather than just Connacht lads.

I really hope it goes well for him in the weeks to come.

For me, the next part of the season is all about getting back to peak fitness, forcing my way back into the match-day squad and helping us pick up some more wins. Sunday's game against Scarlets is a bit too soon for me, but we all know we're in for a massive test over there.

Every time we play Scarlets - especially in Wales - we know we're in for a tough day. They run the ball from everywhere and it always feels like the most draining of games as a result.

But I am confident that we have what it takes to pick up a result in Llanelli. If we can add to the good things we did against Leinster, I think we'll be right in contention in the final minutes.

Irish Independent

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