Few injuries are believed to be as physically and mentally demanding on a sports star than a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament. It can take months to recover from and is widely considered to be one of the most serious setbacks a player can suffer.
Hull KR vice-captain Elliot Minchella has agreed to share his road to recovery from the injury, which he suffered at the start of the Super League season. This is the first instalment of his personal diary, exclusively for Thirteen.
I’m not afraid to admit that didn’t really understand the injury at first.
I’ve never really had a bad injury in my career, and in terms of big knee injuries, I’ve never been at a club when one of my team-mates has done something like an ACL injury. But when the specialist explained what he had to do, and the processes behind the surgery and how long it takes to heal, it really hit home that it was serious.
It was strange initially, because I had to wait a month before even getting the surgery, and I was weirdly in a better condition than I am now. For the first six weeks after the surgery, you’re on crutches and you quite literally can’t do anything physically. But three weeks or so after the injury, and before surgery, I could walk, bike, take the dogs out.. everything. It was strange knowing I’d be going in for surgery and coming out able to do less initially. But there were still times my knee gave way just doing things like walking – essentially because there’s no ACL in there.
I’m nearly three weeks post-surgery, and I’ve got another three weeks on the crutches. I tore my meniscus as well as the ACL injury, and there’s really nothing I can do at the moment. I’m icing it as much as I’m allowed, and moving it around very slowly. I can’t drive, I can’t walk – but I know that once I get off the crutches, the pace really picks up. But it’s a slow, boring period at the minute, and it’s probably as tough physically as it is mentally.
You don’t do anything, and when you’re used to being active, it takes its toll mentally. I go into the gym and train, but it’s all upper body. I can’t go on a bike, I’m just sat down constantly. But I’m grateful I’m going over to Hull every day and I’m in and around the boys.
I go in the gym with them, and when they’re on the field I just watch and ice my knee, which is difficult to do sometimes, especially mentally. Rovers said I could have some time off, but I had the operation on the Tuesday and went back in on Friday! I want to be involved and I want to be in the thick of it, it’s a good environment and I didn’t want to be isolated on my own. The coaching staff have been good and given me jobs to do in and amongst the group, which has kept my spirits up..
It’s the mental side that’s the hardest at the moment, without a doubt. The knee is pretty stiff because I haven’t moved it for a while and I’m trying to bend it very carefully, but getting your head around it mentally has been the big thing. The length of time you’re going to have away from the game, and the little things you can’t do at the moment. I see the specialist in just under four weeks, and he’ll hopefully take my crutches off and me – and then things start moving forward at a good pace.
I can do weight-bearing activities through the leg and the hamstring, and then that progresses over time. You get on the bike, and the club has got an AlterG treadmill which I’ll be using – but that’s a while off yet. I’ve been literally asking every day when I can run, and the short answer is: no chance yet.
You’ve got several phases to tick off with an ACL injury, and that’s good for me mentally because I like having a target. My goal at the minute is simple: to get off the crutches. That’s given me a focus, to do the little things right every day. Mentally, I’ve got my head around it now I think. But it’s just a long six weeks of inactivity.
The next step is a big one, getting off the crutches. Then I can really start to look at return dates and things like that, because it’s just a bit too soon at the moment. But it is the mental side of the injury which is really tough to contend with.