Pauric Mahony gives advice on how GAA players can recover from ACL injuries
"With an injury like this, progression may not be visible while you’re in the middle of it."
When Bernard Brogan was recovering from his latest cruciate injury a couple of years ago, he kept a small journal to monitor his progress.
It was all about ticking off the little wins and little victories throughout the rehab, not getting too caught up in the end goal which can see miles away.
Waterford captain Pauric Mahony has had endure something similar, as he has been recovering from this dreaded knee injury for the past two seasons.
However, with discipline, foresight and patience, he would never have got back to the level where he is at now, and as he prepares to lead Ballygunner into the Munster hurling final this Sunday, he reflects on his rehab journey.
"Number one was just making sure that I had the right medical team around me and had regular check-ups to make sure you’re hitting your milestones.
"If you were to just say ‘Come back and play in nine months’ that would seem very long down the road and you might lose sight of the end goal but if you set small short-term targets…
"Every week, just having your plan for the week. At the start, I remember a few times not having a set structure and before you know it you could be going in spending three hours in the gym, and very quickly the motivation levels start to wear off.
"So I ended up flipping it back to maybe 40-minute sessions every day and then every two weeks checking in with physios or the surgeon to make sure everything was on track.
"With an injury like this, progression may not be visible while you’re in the middle of it. It’s hundreds of small steps that allow you to get back onto the playing field.
"So it’s having the voice in your ear to say ‘You’re good, you’re where you should be after week 4/6/8’ and trusting the people around you that you’re on the right path."
Anyone who has suffered a serious injury before knows that the scariest thing is going back into the action with the doubt gnawing in the back of your head.
You know you need to test the injury, but you're afraid it could buckle and you end up back at square one.
One training session in particular stands out in Mahony's head, as the moment he knew that he will be back to his best.
"At a club training session we were doing two tackle drills. We had said that week that I was going to go back to doing full contact training and in a way you’re better off sometimes being thrown in the deep end.
"It was 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, tackle, tackle, tackle.
"Before I knew it I was on the floor after taking a couple of belts. But then I was back up and ready to go again a couple of seconds later. It was the bit of reassurance that I needed that the knee was in a strong place.