My battered and bruised ankle looks like it went 12 rounds with Katie Taylor and lost
By Jennifer O'Leary
I’LL let you in on a little secret – I can be quite stubborn when I’m in match mode.
Even with my inter-county days behind me, that competitiveness remains, and sometimes to my detriment.
Just look at the photo on this page. That’s my ankle. Not a pretty sight, right?
There are a few certainties in sport. You’ll win games and you’ll lose games, you’ll have good days and bad, and there’s also the possibility that you’ll get injured at some point too. If not, you’re one of the lucky ones.
This is my latest war wound.
I’ll be honest, I feared the worst when this latest injury happened. It was during a camogie league game for my club Middletown against our rivals Madden up here in Armagh.
When your ankle balloons like mine, expect bad news.
It reminds me of that self-inflicted tear I told you about before, back in 2012 a couple of days before a national league semi-final for Cork when my hamstring suffered at the hands of the teacher-student sprint 200-metre relay race at a sports day in Coláiste Choilm.
My first mistake that day was not warming up. And it came back to haunt me.
I injured my hamstring after the first 100 metres but didn’t stop. I ran on and passed the baton to the next teacher, even when my body was screaming, ‘Jen, nooooooo!’
I didn’t listen then, and my ignorance placed me in another frustrating situation lately.
While running to contest the ball on the uneven ground, my left ankle was programmed to go one way while I summoned it to go the other. The result was a searing pain around my foot and ankle, my ligaments overstretching around the joint and a slow motion fall to
the wet ground.
It did not look good. It was nearly half time and we were a few points down.
Most people would have the sense to recognise that all those injury symptoms signal trouble. My manager did, other teammates did, even the water-boy did – but all those signals meant nothing to me. I was in another zone.
I clearly learned nothing from running that 100 metres injured six years ago.
I wanted to play and a sore ankle wasn’t going to stop me.
Ten minutes earlier my teammate Gabrielle had to go off with an ear injury, she needed stitches and was about to leave at half-time. She saw I was in trouble and offered me her trusty white ankle support with its fancy laces that looked very capable of supporting this ankle.
With an uncomfortable foot manoeuvre, the laced-up ankle support was secure and I was once again ready for action.
I felt like Aoife Murray in the Division 1 league final against Kilkenny last month; her knee heavily bandaged and taped up to secure the joint in place. If she could do it for the majority of the game, so could I?
I did, but as I sit in my kitchen looking down at my ankle that resembles a black and blue cushion, part of me wishes I just sat down on the dugout bench at halftime.
Maybe it’s not so bad, they often say injuries can look worse than what they actually are – but the physio was to be the judge of that.
So why do we have this rush of blood to the head when it comes to injuries? Why do we feel invincible in that moment and believe that playing on is a good option?
In the All-Ireland final last year Cork legend Gemma O’Connor defied all odds by lining out against Kilkenny. The knee injury she suffered in the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway shouldn’t have allowed her to even warm-up, but she played the entire 66 minutes against Kilkenny in the final.
Aoife Murray looked uncomfortable and in pain on her goal-line during the recent league final, which Cork lost by a point despite a thrilling second-half comeback. Her heavily strapped leg suggested that playing was a risk.
A co-worker of mine at school suffers severe back pain, she loves to run long distances and compares it to hell on earth when it comes to pain, but she still persists every week.
Closer to home in West Cork, it was great to see Castlehaven footballer Brian Hurley, 13 months on from his last injury, make another comeback to football. Brian has suffered two serious hamstring injuries in the past two years, ripping his hamstring off the bone to the extent that his football career could have been ended.
Last year when it looked like medics wouldn’t operate on him here at home, he went to London for surgery – and now he’s back defying all odds after what must have been an extremely painful and intensive recovery period.
We put ourselves through so much pain because the pain of losing and the feeling of missing out feels so much worse.
I know that sounds like absolute madness, and is difficult to comprehend. This would never be a mind-set I would instil into others, I would extend all the good advice received onto others.
It would just appear that a no-pain, no-gain approach is taken quite literally by some people, me being one of them.
And now for the good news. Despite my ankle looking like it went 12 rounds with Katie Taylor and lost badly, my physio explained that I have no ligament damage, it’s just a bad sprain.
That’s the news I needed.
I’m back training this week already with my ankle heavily strapped for support.
Maybe next time I’ll listen to the warning signs and my body.