Hi, I am Dan Fleming; I play rugby league for the Bradford Bulls and Wales RL, in October 2015 I was selected to play for Wales in the European Championships against Scotland, Ireland and France. To say I was over the moon is an understatement!! It was the first week of training and I got through the tough week with no problems or signs of any injury, the week leading up to the first game I injured my knee in one of the sessions early in the week.
I was gutted!!
I had a good idea what the problem was as I had the same issue with my opposite knee the year before. I was able to use an ice and compression device straight away to and keep the swelling to a minimum. Later the same week I went to see a knee specialist and had an MRI scan and consultation, I was told that I needed a microfracture operation on my patella…. The exact operation as I had the same time last year. I had the operation the following week and then the frustrating twelve-week recovery process started.
The first three weeks involved getting the range of movement back in the joint, I did this by keeping the muscles around my knee activated by contracting my quad muscles using certain exercises i.e. seated single leg raises.
The following weeks were all about strengthening the muscles around my leg. I did this by completing a rehabilitation programme. This involved lower body exercises such as single leg squat to a box, single leg body weight Romanian deadlift and lying single leg raises.
Before I was able to run I had to try to keep my fitness up the best way I could, I would try to do this by doing various different upper body conditioning sessions. With rugby league being physically and mentally demanding I had to get a mixture of both into my sessions and try to replicate different scenarios of the game…. Getting up off the floor being one of them! Buprees are one of the exercises that everyone loves to hate, they get you fit and they can be adapted to suit all levels. I would also incorporate boxing and battle ropes into my workouts, here is a session I did in my own gym…
I would try and complete the session as quick as possible but I wasn’t too bothered about keeping the time as I wanted to simulate the mental aspect of the game on having to do repeat efforts on your own try line and not knowing how long is to go in the game.
Weeks went past and I would try and fit these sessions in once or twice a week as I was still completing my rehab program, which started to involve a lot of leg weights. From having a previous back injury, which resulted in a bulging disc between L5 and S1, I tried to stay away from leg weights, as I was a bit worried that the same injury would occur. I spoke with my physio at the Bradford Bulls and we decide to incorporate core-strengthening exercises to support my back when I was training. The core exercises helped with keeping my form whilst I was performing exercises such as Deadlifts, Bulgarian spit squat and Single leg hip thrusters which I was doing every other day to try and build the strength back up in my lower body.
The only downside to the weight training was the weight I was actually putting on. Whilst I wasn’t able to run I had to monitor my food intake and seen as I can look at a carb and put 3kg on…. It wasn’t easy!!
At the time I wanted to try to keep as much weight (body fat) off but at the same time try and increase my strength as much as I could this too wasn’t easy, I was weighing approximately 113kg at the time I got injured. This was taking its toll on my knee when I was starting to run again on the Alter-G treadmill and then when I progressed onto the field, so I tried to limit my carbohydrate intake to before 12 pm. As I was still training I didn’t get too hung up on the grams per kg of my body weight, but I was trying to stick with more complex carbs, sweet potatoes, quinoa and vegetables along with a portion of protein every time I ate; whether that be chicken, tin of tuna, or Whey Better.
I managed to get back in full training in 10 weeks, which was 2 weeks quicker than the consultant had said. I was able to play in both of the preseason friendlies, and at Christmas, I didn’t think I was going to be back for round 1 of the season. I put this down to the rehab program that was set by my physio at the Bradford Bulls, which I feel lucky to be in this position to have access to it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story on coming back from injury. Being injured can be a lonely place when u are training on your own without your teammates but the end product and being able to train and eventually compete with them make it worthwhile.