It’s been more than four months since my younger was considered to be officially recovered from his avulsion fracture of the pelvis and able to do sport again. I would like to say that things have gone smoothly ever since then, but they haven’t.
The first month was fine. He was playing football and training with his athletics club. Then he went back to rugby. Within two weeks, he had a problem with his tendons. And I could see that he was terrified it was going to end with another fracture and another long period away from sport. Once he’d got over the initial shock and horror of his fracture and the realisation that he wouldn’t be able to jump in the national competition, he had dealt with the recovery period pretty well. But he didn’t want to go through that again.
The problem with the tendons cleared up within days.
He was back to football, rugby and athletics.
But then he got shin splints. Again, he gave himself a break from sport for a few days. Again, he went back to it all. By this time, it was nearly Christmas.
On Christmas Day, he fully intended to do parkrun with the rest of us. It would be the first time he’d ever actually run Christmas Day parkrun. He arrived at the course in his running kit, but then he realised his shin was hurting. He couldn’t risk running. So he went and sat in the car and tried to keep warm.
After that, he took nearly a month off sport. He did one session at his athletics club in the middle of January, but apart from that, the first sport he did was his first indoor athletics competition. That was a tense time. But he managed it. In fact, he didn’t just manage it, he came second. Not bad for a kid who hadn’t jumped for nearly seven months.
Over the next couple of weeks he had three or four sessions at his athletics clubs and three football matches, plus school PE lessons.
At the start of February, I picked him up from his athletics club and he was upset. The shin splints were back. He’d been trying so hard with his recovery. He’d read up all he could on them. He’d used ice and ibuprofen, he’d rested. But it still wasn’t enough.
All of a sudden, everything was up in the air again. He had another indoor competition coming up, followed by the national indoor competition at the end of February. Apart from the impact on him, the family had been planning (and cancelling!) things around the national competition and we’d even spent money on our spectator tickets. Now it looked like none of us would be going.
It was time to see a physio.
In my experience, if you need help fast and you need to recover fast, you don’t go to an NHS physio. It will take two weeks to even see a GP, then it will probably take at least eight weeks to see a physio. Even when he fractured his pelvis, and was seeing a paediatric physio which tends to have quicker referrals, it was four weeks for my son to see an NHS physio. (Now my son is 16 he is seen as an adult in terms of health services, so it is unlikely he would be able to see a children’s physio.)
As it happens, my son’s school now uses a local company to provide physio appointments for kids once a week. It’s something a few schools seem to do and it makes sense when you’ve got a load of sporty kids constantly getting injured. You have to pay for the service and it’s not cheap, but it is competitively priced.
Five days after the shin splints came back, my son saw the school physio.
‘Don’t forget to ask him about the competition in three weeks!’ I said.
‘What about the competition this week?’ he joked.
It turns out that it was pretty good news. The problem is caused by a lack of mobility in his ankles, which in turn is caused by his tight achilles. My son has suffered from a tight achilles since he was very young and has suffered many injuries over the years which can be traced back to the achilles.
The good news is that long jump is better for him than football!
Eighty minutes of football puts too much stress on him. But long jump takes literally seconds. Yes, it puts a lot of stress on for those few seconds, but it is nothing like the cumulative stress of an 80 minute football match.
So, all being well, my son can do both of his indoor competitions. He has some exercises to do for his ankles and he will get back to football gradually. Football is important to him, but it’s nowhere near as important as his athletics. His aim will to be back to full strength and completely free of shin splints ready for the start of the outdoor athletics season in April.