Monday 17 June 2019

Former cruciate victim O'Donnell impressed by Brogan's dedication to make rapid return to the highest level

Brogan: Quick return. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Brogan: Quick return. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Bernard Brogan's rapid recovery from a ruptured cruciate ligament is an advertisement for how elite athletes have learned to cope with a setback that used to place careers in jeopardy.

Skilled surgeons and physios and advances in the area of rehab have removed some of the fear factor that has surrounded the dreaded injury.

Brogan was conscious that Fergus McFadden was back in action for Leinster after just four and a half months on the sidelines, and NFL players in America have managed to tog out in a quicker timeframe, although the folly of the great Jerry Rice's three-and-a-half-month turnaround was exposed by a knee injury in his first game back.

But the Dubliner's incident-free comeback against Roscommon last weekend, just five and a half months - or 23 weeks - after surgery is quite an achievement for a GAA player and has impressed sportsmen who know all about the challenges of the road to recovery.

Dundalk captain Stephen O'Donnell defied expectations to make his own comeback from a serious knee problem to score the goal that secured a league title for his side in October 2014.

His season looked to be over when he was struck down in April and a blood clot added further problems.

Stephen O'Donnell. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Stephen O'Donnell. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

O'Donnell is on the comeback trail again following a devastating leg break against Waterford in May - an injury that presented more challenges than his 2014 journey.

However, the difference between O'Donnell's knee woe and Brogan's problem is that a visit to specialist Ray Moran confirmed that the damage to the League of Ireland player's cruciate did not require reconstructive surgery - although there were a multitude of other problems - whereas the Dublin star had to go down that route.

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That's why the avid GAA fan was mightily impressed to see the veteran make a late Croke Park appearance.

"It takes an unbelievable amount of dedication," says O'Donnell (right). "I'm sure his focus would have been getting back but it's especially impressive if you have other business interests.

"There are things you can't always control. Some people's bodies are just naturally quicker healers. But there's no magic wand. It's a long and boring road that everyone has to go through."

Short-term goals are the key. The strength of the muscles around the knee determine how quickly a cruciate sufferer can get back on their feet; if some athletes are especially strong in that department they can chance proceeding without an operation but that is a major risk.

"You have the operation and your muscles waste away," explains O'Donnell, "It's about building the quad muscles up, the hamstrings, the calves, all of the leg muscles. It's not necessarily the knee - it's all the protectors around it. Within a week you can be back walking, depending on your strength."

Brogan was treated at Moran's Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry and what struck O'Donnell about his experience with the knee gurus was the accuracy of their timelines in terms of laying out a prognosis.

From early in Brogan's recovery, the beginning of August was laid down in interviews as a target and the Galwegian is not surprised that it went to plan.

"The timelines were always bang on the money," said O'Donnell. "You'd come in for a consultation and be told what the next step is. He (Moran) would say give it a week and you'll be ready to start jogging and you'd be thinking you have no time but it was always right.

"They give you something to aim for and you get more confident every time you meet each one and it starts to come to fruition.

"You get off the crutches and out of a brace. From there it's light exercise on the bike and a bit of swimming building towards a strenuous cycle. Then a bit of jogging. Once you see yourself making progress with different things, there's a sense of achievement."

O'Donnell feels that Brogan's conditioning as a senior player aided his swift comeback. Clare hurler Aron Shanagher was hailed last month for returning after eight months out, with the youngster's body adjusting to the challenge of the recovery.

Shamrock Rovers player Luke Byrne was out of competitive action for almost 12 months after rupturing his cruciate in April 2016, but his young team-mate Trevor Clarke is hopeful of returning this season following his own setback in April.

There are familiar setbacks that can snooker players along the way - and there's an element of luck involved in avoiding them - but any individual that manages to come back in less than six months has demonstrated an ability to rigorously follow a monotonous plan in search of the light at the end of the tunnel.

Brogan's role from here on in might still be limited, but his return means he has already completed a personal triumph.

Irish Independent

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