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Saturday, July 16, 2011

A word from Jonathan Kemp on his recovery from injury last year

England International and current World #23 Jon Kemp took the time to reveal his comeback from a torn labrum in his hip. Kempy as he is known on tour, reveals the highs and lows of the comeback and what the process coming back from injury was like for him.

In February last year I tore the labrum in my hip whilst playing a tournament in Chennai, India. Being a professional athlete and therefore completely delusional in regard to my own abilities and limitations I struggled on for 4 months convinced I would be ok, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Eventually, after several bad losses and the realisation that my training now only consisted of light court sessions and cycling I boldly told my physio I had come to the decision that I needed surgery. "I told you that 3 months ago" was her response. Fair enough. 

So an appointment was booked a couple of days later for a consultation with the top hip specialist in the country. I now know, having spoken to other people who have also had the same procedure performed by "the top hip specialist in the country", that this is a boast made by almost all surgeons and should be taken with a pinch of salt. However as I have now made a complete recovery, unlike some of the people I spoke to, I am inclined to believe my surgeons boasts are not too far off the mark.

The consultation was short and to the point. I needed surgery and he was definitely the best man for the job. The only decision is when to have it. The only available slots were 7am the next morning or in 6 weeks. Not the ideal options as having it in 6 weeks would mean I would miss most of the season but having it in the morning would mean driving 3 and a half hours from Cambridge where the consultation was, back to Harrogate where I was living, packing some stuff and then driving straight back down through the night to be back for the operation in the morning. I decided I would have it in the morning, reasoning that even though I would be tired I would catch up on some sleep under general anaesthetic anyway.

The operation went well and I was discharged the next morning. The only problem was that in my rush I hadn't considered that I now couldn't drive. A quick phone call to my ever reliable mother and it was arranged for her to pick me up, we would figure out how to get my car back from Cambridge later.
I was told that I couldn't put any weight on my leg for 6 weeks so I would have to get used to getting around on crutches. I had used them before so I figured it would be easy. To be fair, walking on crutches is not that bad and apart from a couple of scary moments with wet floors I didn't mind it. What I did mind was the ordeal of trying to carry things around. Holding a plate or glass in your hand whilst using your wrist to hold your weight on the crutch is a difficult skill to master.

As I was pretty immobile, most of my time in the first few weeks was spent watching The Sopranos. I'm sure I could have done something more productive, learnt a language maybe, or something equally useful, but to be honest I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and I just couldn't be bothered!
Rehab is a full time occupation so once that started my days were not that different from usual, with glut clams and bridging taking the place of ghosting and court sprints. My hip progressed well and after 6 weeks I was off the crutches. I celebrated by going out and getting smashed. Probably not a good idea but I did have enough sense to take my crutches out with me, just to be on the safe side! They were actually a very useful prop, allowing me to skip queues and always get served quickly at the bar, something that has tempted me to use them again, although as yet I haven't as I'm not sure that would be in the spirit of game.
6 more weeks of rehab followed before I was allowed back on court. These weeks were much more enjoyable than the previous 6 as I had my freedom back. It is amazing how many things we take for granted and I found myself taking great pleasure in simple things I had been unable to do before, like being able to walk up stairs unaided or go to the supermarket on my own, things I now find very tedious.
I took the opportunity to go away on a couple of holidays and catch up with friends during these weeks as well, enjoying the brief period between the incarceration of the first 6 weeks and the impending hell of trying to get fit once I could play squash again. 

At the magic 12 weeks I got the ok to start training on court. I had scheduled to play my first tournament in 4 weeks time so I didn't have long. Back to the familiar grind of pain, pain, pain. Out went the lazy afternoon bike rides in the sun and in it's place chasing a rubber ball under artificial light in a small room. I said goodbye to my rounded features and healthy glow and gradually welcomed back my familiar gaunt self. 
The training went well but I had not had chance to play a competitive match before my first tournament so I would be going into it hoping I could still remember how to play squash. Luckily I was feeling good and had every confidence I could beat my opponent as I had beaten him before and knew what I had to do. Unfortunately you get no points for confidence and I quickly realised I was so far off the pace that I quickly reevaluated my expectations and instead focused on trying to win one rally, just one, anyway I could so that I didn't completely embarrass myself. I won a few in the end but I dont think that saved me or my ego from the ignominy of that performance. 
A few weeks and a lot of matches later, I finally started to get back to some kind of form. With the hip fully recovered my mind quickly dismissed those first few crushing defeats and once again was filled with the trademark over confidence of the professional athlete, believing I would win every match I played, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.


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