Gatland set to gamble on 'miracle' man Bowe
TOMMY Bowe is to be fast-tracked onto the Lions team against Australia on Saturday after making a miraculous recovery from a broken bone in his hand.
Warren Gatland is preparing to gamble on Bowe's fitness less than three weeks after the Ulster wing sustained the injury by replacing Alex Cuthbert with the Ireland ace for the second Test.
Bowe's return to fitness from an injury which normally requires four to six weeks recovery time was hailed as "unbelievable" by Lions head doctor James Robson, who said he hoped the Monaghan man's contribution to the tour would "become the stuff of Lions' legend."
Robson feared Bowe's tour was over when he broke his hand against Queensland Reds.
"Tommy's recovery is up there with the best stories," Robson said, before Bowe's selection had been confirmed. "The only way he can cap this off is to be selected for Saturday and score the winning try. I am hoping it will become the stuff of Lions' legend.
"People will say: 'Tommy Bowe, bloody hell, how did he do that?' The impact (of his return) is bound to lift everyone. The immediate feeling was, 'Oh my God, we have just lost somebody whom we greatly respected and was back to his full peak.' We experienced an immense low, then a glimmer of hope and then, over two or three days, a feeling that we actually might pull this off.
"Now there is the pride that he has returned to full training less than two weeks after an injury that should have normally sent him home. Such a recovery can really boost a squad. The squad is in great shape mentally."
The Ulster wing, who has scored 26 tries in 51 games for Ireland, fractured his second metacarpal – the long bone in his hand – during the victory over the Reds on June 8. Robson and his medical team sought the opinion of Dr Peter Rowan, an orthopaedic surgeon in Brisbane, who specialises in hand and shoulder injuries. Bowe visited Rowan with Irish team doctor Eanna Falvey yesterday where he was given the all-clear after having X-rays carried out.
Rowan said the fracture was such that, with the insertion of three pins to bind the bone together during an operation that lasted one hour, Bowe might be able to play within three to four weeks.
"The specialist said he had seen one or two people come back early, maybe not in the time frame we were wanting, but we decided to give it a go," explained Robson, Lions head doctor for the past six tours.
"Instead of being a clean, end-to-end break, it was a spiral fracture. That means when you put it back together, the fracture covers a bigger surface area so it is not butting end to end, where you would have to fit a plate, it actually fits in like a jigsaw piece, so you had that integrity before you start.
"The three screws went in at different angles to bind it together and that was the central plank of the recovery."
Robson praised Bowe's approach to rehabilitation.
"The player has to be positive about it and understand there was a small risk of failure and that it might be uncomfortable and that he was going to have to work hard," explained Robson.
"We said to the player: 'Do you want to do it?' And Tommy said: 'Yes, I bloody do.' You can't praise Tommy highly enough. You have to have a special person to be able to cope with that regime."
The rehabilitation programme – which involved more than 20 people – included icing the injury six or seven times a day for 20 minutes, taking medication, changing his diet and doing special physio sessions.
Bowe's hand was put in a splint and he was allowed to "settle down" and begin healing before the intense rehabilitation programme started.
Lions physio Prav Mathema then worked "tirelessly" with Bowe, said Robson, spending up to four hours a day with the player on top of his other commitments. "Prav did localised therapy, soft-tissue massage and a lot of finger exercises and progressing his grip strength and movement and then start to get Tommy back running to ensure he didn't lose any of fitness."
By the end of first week, Bowe was starting to do gentle grip skills and a few days later he was catching tennis balls. He began running to maintain his fitness and by the second week was starting to catch rugby balls.
The green light to return to full training came last Friday. "Tommy was a highly motivated patient," Rowan said. "People often ask why these sports guys get back a lot earlier and I usually say there are two reasons. One, they tend to go back before they are 100pc healed and secondly they are tough." (© Daily Telegraph, London)