Injuries, rehab part of life for Kiwi athletes
Pain, frustration and isolation become a part of life as sports people battle to rejoin their teammates.
Rehabilitation is far too familiar for All Black Richard Kahui.
The Chiefs centre dislocated his shoulder in May and will return from his third surgery in three years, just ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season.
“You imagine you're doing your dream job and you come in to work every morning and there are 30 or 40 smiling faces, the music is loud and you're always having a laugh together,” says Kahui. “And you go from that to being totally removed from the team.”
The 27-year-old scored with his first touch as an All Black in 2008. Yet his injuries mean he's played just 17 of 66 tests since and missed the Chiefs' Super Rugby title.
“The second one I probably got into a pretty bad place mentally and physically. I just struggled to cope with it. I didn't have the support network set up like I have the last couple.”
Confined to a sling for eight weeks, he couldn't drive, cut a steak or sleep.
“You can't roll on your back, you can't roll on your side, you have to sleep sitting up and that's probably the hardest – going without sleep.”
Few would be in Warriors centre Jerome Ropati's shoes either, after consecutive season-ending knee surgeries.
“You have an expectation of where your knee should be at a certain time, and the majority of it, it's not there,” says Ropati. “So the challenge is being patient.”
While Ropati will be ready for 2013, Warriors doctor John Mayhew says athletes suffer long-term effects.
“It’s very likely they'll have problems later in life with their knees, hips and shoulders,” says Mayhew. “Certainly now the surgeries are getting better and better and we're managing injuries better and better to make that likelihood reduced.”
With ongoing knee and ankle problems, Silver Ferns skipper Casey Williams knows all about it.
“You stand up, stretch out a bit and you're off,” says Williams.
Getting Williams on court is a balancing act.
“We have to make sure long-term, when we're looking at 2014-15, bigger picture stuff, we have to make sure we're making the right decision for her on a daily basis,” says Silver Ferns physiologist Sharon Kearney.
But Kahui explains that even injury has a silver lining.
“I couldn't do washing and dishes,” he says. “I tried to milk things as long as I could. My fiancé had a tough time with the housework but I don't think it has got any better since I’ve got better though!”
However, his injury has, and Kahui hopes rehab will soon be in his past.