Thursday 21 March 2019

GAA star feared he may never play football again after serious back injury caused by lifting heavy weights

Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville
Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville
Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville
Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville

Patricia Murphy and Mark McConville

A talented footballer said he feared he would never play competitive sport again after a session at the gym left him with a serious back injury that threatened his athletic lifestyle.

Max McConnell (22) from Moira in Co. Down suffered a prolapsed disc caused by lifting weights that were too heavy, which left him in agony and unable to move for weeks.

The young athlete said he feared he’d never be able to play sports again due to the injury, which left him bedridden for almost a month in June.

“The injury happened when I was lifting weights that were too heavy.

“When I went to the doctor, he told me I wasn’t allowed to do any sport for a year or a year and a half. It was quite demoralising. It came as a shock because I’m a very active person.

“About five days after the injury happened my back just went into spasm and that’s when the serious part happened, I couldn’t move at all and the ambulance had to take me to hospital. Whenever I got to hospital, I got quite a scare because it was so bad.

Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville
Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville

“The nerves in my legs had gone, I couldn’t feel my legs. At that stage it was quite serious. The doctors were considering surgery which had me panicking. I feared I’d never be able to walk again, run again or play sport.”

The footballer said the injury had an impact on his mental health as he was cooped up at home, unable to leave the house. He began researching back injuries and ways in which he could use the time to help him get back on his feet as quickly as possible.

“I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t be able to play sport for a year. I researched online things that could help me, like Chinese medicine and the like, things that could reduce inflammation. Every second when I was at home lying on the floor I was stretching or doing some sort of exercise to stretch my back. Consistency and hard work at the time helped me to work on the injury a lot quicker.

“The doctors told me that I wouldn’t be able to do any sport for a year, but after working hard for about two months I found myself feeling able to run slowly.”

Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville
Max McConnell (22). Photo: Mark McConville

Max’s club St Michael’s in Magheralin had reached the semi-final of the county championship, and the footballer revealed that he began to see that match as a personal goal.

“We had the semi-final date set and I set that as a goal for myself, to be able to play a decent part of the match. I ended up playing for 20 minutes or so but that was a big part for the mental side of it. You’re cooped up in the house a lot thinking you might not play football or any other sport again. I’m not saying I’m back to 100pc but I’m feeling a lot better than what they expected.”

Max, who currently works as a driver assistant in the French Alps, said his recovery is an example of how a commitment to physiotherapy and optimism can speed up recovery.

“I’m a classic example of if you put the hard work in terms of you’re always thinking about it, you’re always working towards something, you’re always stretching, you can get to a better place than if you just let it run its course.

“If I could speak to myself six months ago I would tell myself that it’s not as bad as it seems if you keep a positive attitude like I did you can overcome the odds.”

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