My experience with serious injury and how football injury insurance has helped my confidence in returning to play…

Hello, Portás Group, my name is Tom Carroll (23). Unfortunately, I have had my fair share of experience with serious injuries and long-term recoveries, both with the support of insurance and without. This is an insight into my story thus far…

Background & Previous Injuries

From 13-18 I was at Northampton Town FC. Going through the various academy age groups, I made my Youth Team debut as an U15 and signed a 2-Year YTS Apprenticeship at 16. Before the age of 16, I don’t think I had ever missed game through injury however 9-10 games into my 1st year YTS, I tore my Meniscus (Knee Cartilage). Due to my age (16) the specialist didn’t want to operate and hoped that I may recover naturally however, I kept having issues and surgery was required… Fortunately as I was full-time, the surgery was covered on NTFC’s medical insurance and through 1-1 physio rehab, I managed to recover to play the last 10-12 games of the season and was ready to hit the ground running for arguably the most important time of my YTS, 2nd year pre-season.

Sadly, just a little after 2 weeks into pre-season, I repeated the injury which required further, more severe surgery. This one was tough to take as I almost knew there and then that this would put me out for a substantial period yet again and hamper my chances to gain a professional contract. Dealing with this was a bitter pill to swallow, especially when I missed a big chunk of my 1st year through injury. Again, I was covered by the club and spent 3 months recovering with the other injured youth and 1st team lads under the watchful eye of the physio/S&C team. I returned to play the rest of the season with no issues although unfortunately being released at 18 in the summer of 2016.

After NTFC, I moved up to Nottingham to join Nottingham Trent University (NTU) studying a Business Management degree and playing for NTU Football Club on a sports scholarship. Playing for the University during a successful time for the club as well as featuring for a few non-league sides in the Midlands, I managed to stay relatively injury free (minus a broken wrist and nose) and began loving my football again, playing regularly and feeling like my injury troubles were behind me. Unfortunately, they were not…

Recent ACL Injury, Recovery & Insurance

16 months ago, during an FA Vase game, I was on the receiving end of an awful scissor tackle from behind that caused me to rupture my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), on my previously non-injured leg. Straight away, I knew something was wrong as I felt a pop sound in my knee and was in sheer agony. After I had managed to get home, ice and reduce the swelling for a few days, I was scrambling around trying to speak to old contacts and specialists to get a scan to see what was wrong. Luckily, I had a good pool of contacts from my time at NTFC and was insured on a family BUPA medical cover- I got an MRI scan after a few weeks and saw the same knee specialist from my days at NTFC a week later who reviewed the pictures and delivered the bad news- ACL tear. That same day, I was referred to an ACL specialist and booked my surgery for 5 weeks-time. I was now facing the reality of undergoing my 3rd knee surgery at 21 years of age and with a long rehab that was ultimately going to be self-driven.

During this period, I had just started a new job and having to request 3 weeks off work for a knee surgery did not feel like a good start. Luckily, my work were extremely supportive but I always felt anxious that it would put me behind the 8-ball and that it did not give the best impression… With my job being office based, I could manage my immediate recovery whilst working from home but for people working a trade for example, that would be a completely different situation…

Fortunately, the surgery was a success and it was now all about recovery and rehab! Through BUPA, I managed to get multiple physio sessions at a private clinic which was fantastic. The initial stages were okay as I could see quick progress and because it was a new goal, I was really motivated to get my sessions done. I missed football but because I was so far away from getting back, I tried not to think about it and just focussed purely on my rehab. When I went through my first injuries at NTFC, I had others to support me and was able to take advantage of the time to improve in other areas, for example my upper body strength. This was a different story, I was working a 9-5 and after a day at work, was having to spend 60-90mins in the gym doing basic exercises- it was difficult but the regular physio sessions and the motivation to not let the injury get the better of me kept me going.

As the months went on and the rehab stepped up in intensity with increased mobility, flexibility and strength work- I started to enjoy it more… Until Coronavirus hit and turned the rehab upside down. I couldn’t do the gym work and like everyone else, I had to work from home and then rehab in the same space which was not ideal. Once the season was cancelled, I began to get itchy feet and was eager to push myself to get back for the next pre-season… Realistically, this was never going to happen, but I kept up my rehab and got running which meant I could join in with light non-contact work and just seeing a football was a massive milestone for me. This period was arguably the most frustrating, I could kick the ball but couldn’t join in and could feel that I was just not fit enough… During the summer, I also play cricket in-between seasons and the injury even prevented me from doing that! I massively under estimated how long it would take from that first training session to the first game. I was training for a couple of months but could tell, physically I was not fit enough and mentally, I was not confident enough to begin playing games yet. The physical aspect was just hard graft- doggies after training, running in-between sessions and hours in the gym. The mental aspect took a bit longer as I knew if I rushed into anything, that could be disastrous for any return to playing. It took time but I got better week on week and my confidence grew as I got more involved with full-contact and started receiving tackles again… Eventually, after over 14 months since the initial injury, 12 months post-surgery, countless rehab sessions and multiple physio sessions, I got my first minutes back on a football pitch. As I previously said, I massively underestimated how long it would take me to get to that position and even more so the difference between training and a game. Thus far I have played about 4/5 games off the bench, getting more and more minutes each game but I know that just merely a start and it could take up to 6 more months of regular, injury free football to get my match fitness to a level where I can be at something near my best.

Covid-19 has again halted my progress- I cannot wait for the season to get back up and running again so I can continue my journey in the comfort that I now have football insurance to support me. Having a level of insurance with the Portás Group has given me that peace of mind to get back playing with the confidence that if things do go wrong (and fingers crossed they don’t), I have the support back up there. The Portás Group benefits are also a real perk and how the Group is ran makes you feel part of a community with a developing network in the Non-League game.

TC

We look forward to hearing how Tom progresses after lockdown…