Alan Mahood: The reality for an injured footballer

Photo courtesy of Alan Mahood

Ice? Ice? Maybe

You played. Team won. Your knees killing you but your minds already on next weeks game. It’s a biggy. Every game is. Need to be fit.

Cut a piece of tubigrip and put it in your toilet bag. Pop into the supermarket on the way home for 2 big bags of ice. Might as well pick up some beers while I’m in. Weekend sorted. In, shorts on, tubigrip in place, fill with ice, elevate…..and relax.

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You go through the game in your head. Done ok. Nothing great. Hopefully done enough to keep my place. Need to get swelling down so I can train Monday. Can’t put any doubt in the managers mind or give him any reason to “rest” me even though it would make his life easier giving other boys game time.

Couple of pain killers before bed mixed with the alcohol will help me sleep and see how it feels in the morning…..
Welcome to the life of an injury hit pro who had a routine to enable them to not just train, but to help them get through it. If you only ever played when 100% fit you’d be lucky to play once a month.

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You have 3 types of player. The 1st is the guy who’s legs hanging off and gets it bandaged so he can play. The 2nd is the one that plays with a niggle or two but won’t declare it. The last one is the player who gets sympathy pains if he sees somebody injured and no chance of playing unless hes feeling great and up for it.

I was the 2nd kind. Knew if I was in the team I had to train to play. No other way. I’m in. If manager drops me it’s his choice but I’m not giving him any encouragement. Although I did get dropped off the bench once at Dundee Utd away mid-week because I wasn’t tall enough but that’s another story.

One of the 1st things you’re told about when starting out is injuries. People warn you about them. Part and parcel. In fact older Pros take great delight in telling you about their’s,even showing you the scars like badges of honour. You think yeah yeah whatever,then…..pre season, 89, Whitehall Welfare away.

1st team played theirs, younger boys v reserves. Boy went high and caught my ankle and I limped off. I was advised to “stamp it’ to see if I could go back on? Looking back I’m not sure how that helped or would even help? Ever? Anyway, 12 hours later I’m in Crosshouse hospital getting a plastercast and handed crutches… and so it begins.

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When you’re full time and football’s your job, all you want to do is train all week and play on a Saturday. Simple? If only!

Going on a bad streak of losing games is an easier habit to get into than to get out of, but when you’re fit and playing you can at least try change things and turn it around. When youre injured you feel helpless. It’s always easier to play a game from the stand, what you’d do differently,what subs you’d make. When you’re supposed to be out there and can’t, it’s torture!

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Then Monday comes and youre back in the dressing room. You’re all chatting and having a laugh, hearing stories from the weekend,what boys have been up to, good & bad. Then back of 10 the boys start getting their boots on and filter out in 2s and 3s to go training and your heart sinks as you watch them all leave.

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You go see the physio, he assesses your injury, tells you to get your trainers on and go to the gym and get on the bike, he’ll be over in 10. In a selfish way you want somebody else to be injured too. Not that you wish ill health on anybody but having company is a massive help.

Your relationship with the physio is a big factor too. He knows it’s not easy but how close you are to full recovery will determine how hard he pushes you. If you’re going to be out long term he knows your mood will dip at some point and he has to manage you as a person as well as a player.

It was always amusing when you were in the treatment room and the physio told boys how long they’d be out for and boys would argue with him and take 2 weeks off the predicted rehab time. Granted this guy had been to Uni and had a Masters degree in his specialised subject but,what did he really know? He was also a guy you had to trust.

If you had that Monday morning niggle did you confide in him with the confidence he wouldn’t tell the manager? Was it a risk as he might not feel comfortable not saying anything? It’s great to have a good relationship with the physio, but if the two of you are going out for a pint and he’s your wee ones Godparent then maybe have to think you’ve been injured too many times for too long. Ideally the only time you ever see him is pre match where you exchange pleasantries and thats it.

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Football is great. Make no mistake.When youre playing every week and winning games theres no better feeling. Playing and not winning is hard. Being injured is a nightmare! Somedays you would go in, totally focused,eyes on the end goal, nothings holding me back. Other days were harder. Thats when you need to dig deep and remember the reasons you’re doing it.

Get yourself motivated,remembering the feeling of training everyday, playing on a Saturday. Enjoying the buzz of winning. Celebrating with the boys. Theres a lot of sweat, tears and toil to get back to fitness but when you do, there’s no better feeling.

The smell of the Deep Heat, the buzzer ringing in the dressing room from the ref just before 3, the boys all shouting getting fired up, the butterflies in your stomach, the look from the physio who knows how hard you’ve worked to get back, last out due to superstition, heading down the tunnel, here we go again…

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