ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Injury is common among footballers – and can bring with it a frustratingly-long recovery period.
In April I spoke to Jonty Sargent – a football-mad sports presenter at Signal Radio forced to the side-lines by an injury sustained in a tackle during a Signal 1derers game in August 2014.
A catch-up revealed he no longer needs his crutches – but, in terms of regaining his confidence, it’s very early days indeed.
In May, surgeons cut a section off his hamstring and used that to replace two of the cruciate ligaments in his knee.
So he can do run-of-the-mill stuff which we mostly take for granted like using the stairs and walking the dog. He continues his “rehab” with twice-weekly physio sessions, and yes, he can now run and use the leg press at the gym.
So, I asked, were they ever times he thought things would never return to normal?
Jonty replied: “Well that’s the thing, to be fair I don’t think it ever will. In reality it’s always going to be that thing at the back of your mind…
“With playing football I’m unsure of whether or not I’ll really play again if not for a few months minimum at least. But I’ll never have a normal attitude to sport and running about.
“I’m always now going to be wary that it’s going to give way – and that it’s going to snap, essentially.”
And he knows he’s in good company.
“I ‘spose you get this with a lot of injuries – especially footballers and stuff – if you get a bad tackle and then, if you see that player again, or even walking back on to the pitch, you’re going to be so wary of it.
“And you see, in particular with footballers, that they’re never quite the player they were.”
However, he’s still involved with his passion via his work at Signal.
“When people who don’t quite make it as footballers (go into) radio and TV and media, I mean some people can go into the coaching and management, that’s the closest thing you can get to it which is quite good and I enjoy my job.
“I do miss football – in particular the big charity games that we get invited to play in and I can’t play in them, it’s really disheartening, but like I say being close to the sport in my job is something that I enjoy.”
Meanwhile he’s getting light-hearted advice on what exercise he can take from players like Jermaine Jenas – and, as evident in the video below, he’s sufficiently recovered to play Mini Ping Pong with Chris Iwulemo!
Imagine a situation where injury or illness stopped you doing the one thing you really love not once – but twice.
Jonty Sargent, a station producer and sports presenter for Signal Radio, has been football-mad since childhood.
From the age of 12, he was side-lined by illness over a six-year period, but still had to sit and watch his friends play.
And an accident last summer meant Jonty was “off games” again.
He twisted the Anterior Cruciate Ligament of his right knee playing for his station’s team, the Signal 1derers.
Now 22, he admits: “It was my own fault really! In jumping over a tackle and switching my balance mid-air and landing extremely awkwardly on my right foot, which threw out my cruciate.
“The worst part was – I’m quite a joker on the pitch anyway, especially for Signal, it’s mainly to have a laugh with people and businesses across the area – and then I went down. Nobody believed me!”
The injury was serious enough.
Jonty sustained it in August 2014 but is looking at getting back on the pitch in November, by which time he will have undergone two operations and a course of intensive physiotherapy.
Admittedly he’s finding the current situation incredibly frustrating – as he remembers how illness robbed him the opportunity to play football as a youngster.
“I used to play at various clubs – and even if you were ill, you were always made to go and watch the game in fully-fledged tracksuit, you’d go along with the squad and I’m just the worst watcher of football.
“It’s a case of ‘Oh, I would’ve scored that, I would have made a different decision’.
“It’s just terrible, terrible – watching the football when you experience something that you love doing that you’re so passionate about, day in day out, it’s completely incomparable to any role in any jobs that I can think of, and for me it was literally horrendously heart-breaking.”
Jonty must have felt a tremendous sense of deja vu when his ACL injury (very common amongst footballers but more of that in the future) once again made him into a convalescent.
A keen festival-goer, he’s quick to add that he just knew it would impact on areas other than football: “The thought, when you first do it, was – holidays, you’re not going to be able to do the events we do for Signal.
“And you’re going to miss out on summer, and you’re trying to make plans for the summer, festivals and stuff. I can’t really jump around at festivals!
“And then you’re thinking of other people, you don’t want to hinder them, or if I’m on crutches, you’re not going to go on muddy fields and stuff”.
We’ll be seeing Jonty back in action on the pitch one day, that’s for sure.
And one thing the injury hasn’t blighted is his talent as a broadcaster.
Well, I promised that you’d be meeting some inspirational people in this Blog – and here’s the first of them, a swimming champion who underwent open heart surgery when he was just two days old.
Let me just say – this story has left me feeling very humbled, and really puts things in perspective.
Sam Griffiths, now aged 14, went on to have five more major operations. On several occasions doctors told his family they might have to say goodbye to him.
A heart transplant at the age of eight was the turning point, and since then – through a mixture of talent and sheer determination – he was picked to represent Great Britain in the World Transplant Games in South Africa in 2013. He won four gold medals and one silver in South Africa in 2013, and he also smashed two world records.
He’s been selected to represent GB a second time in this summer’s event in Argentina – and a campaign is now underway to raise £12,000 to get him there.
Sam, who comes from Silverdale, near Newcastle-under-Lyme in North Staffordshire, told me; “I feel honoured to have that opportunity to do something that big that no-one could regularly do.”
Belonging to a family of swimmers, he was simply too ill to join in before his transplant.
His mum Nicola said; “After two minutes in the pool he’d have to get back out and go on oxygen because he was in a wheelchair and on oxygen because the oxygen in his blood was too low because his heart was that deformed.
“All his siblings swam, I swam, his dad swam, we all competed, his siblings were very good in the water, but he had to watch from the side because he couldn’t get in because he was so poorly.”
She stressed that, even after the surgery that saved his life, they still have to be careful; “His heart now is basically like our hearts, it’s absolutely fine. He takes a lot of medication, we have to make sure he doesn’t get any infections because he’s got a lowered immune system and that will always be the case. Transplant is just a good way of getting quality of life.”
“I think my story proves that no matter what odds may be stacked against you and however many times you want to give up you have to be brave and try! Anything is possible!” Sam Griffiths, on his Just Giving page