Monday, September 29, 2008

No pain, no game


I stumbled across an article online recently from The Age in 2005 in which former Collingwood and Fitzroy ruckman James 'Killer' Manson discusses how football may well have cost him the opportunity to become a father.

Indeed, eight groin operations and countless cortisone jabs have landed him with a virtual vasectomy... a big price to pay in the quest for an AFL Premiership.

This weekend there is no doubt that a number of players would have been playing with the help of cortisone and local anaesthetics. Hawthorn's Luke Hodge was spitting up blood a week ago and would almost definitely have been on the boundary on Saturday, but there was a shiny cup at stake and indeed, his role in the game was pivotal.

His team mate Trent Croad hobbled off with a broken foot... broken in that game, or a fracture that was made worse because he played on the injury?

Former Collingwood player Mark Orval was touted as a future champion, but 15 minutes into the second quarter of his seventh game for the club he was finished. This is a quote from an interview I did with him back in October 1999 for The Footy Show Magazine:

"Fifteen minutes into the first quarter I went to turn and 'bang' it (foot) just snapped. All that artificial bone and the bone taken from my hips just snapped. I've got a tape of the game where you see me getting a needle in the huddle at quarter time... that was the last I saw of the number 10 jumper."

I've watched that tape and I still wince at the thought. Last week I had two cortisone / local anaesthetic injections in my right wrist and I can't remember anything quite so painful in my life.

James Manson, who I also interviewed for that feature on drugs in AFL, is no stranger to the needle either. Here's an extract from my article that paints a pretty clear picture of why he's in the position he is today:

James Manson is a big bloke. He shakes hnds like a big bloke. From the outside, you'd think his 6'4" frame was still more than capable of chasing the leather on the field. It's got to be said that the former Collingwood and Fitzroy ruckman looks pretty fit at 31 years of age. but something's wrong with this picture.

The furrowed brow and clutching of the stomach has me puzzled. He notes my gaze and offers an explanation.

"You wouldn't believe the size of this hernia," he says pointing at a spot just above the belt line.

"have you seen a doctor?" I ask, a little distressed at the thought of what's under there.

"Nah, I'm so used to them these days I just poke them back in myself." These are the words of a man who obviously has more to worry about than straining a hamstring or catching a cold.

The hernias - a condition where one's insides protrude through the stomach wall - are the result of years of groin strains, Manson tells me. He had his first groin reconstruction in 1986, in just his second year playing with Collingwood and the rest as they say is history. Bad history.

"The thing that concerns me most about my groin I that I've had that much cortisone pumped into it, I've lost count. One season I tore my groin but just opted to play the season through instead of having the op - God knows what it's done to me," Manson recounts, shifting uneasily in his chair.

"You hear certain reports about how many shots you're supposed to have in a year and I can tell you, I've had a lot more than my recommended dose. It's funny, a well known Melbourne vet once told me they stopped giving cortisone to racehorses 30 years ago. That really worries me," he says without any trace of a smile.

Now we do know what it has done. I haven't caught up with the latest on whether he has been succesful in having children, but watch this space...

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great to read a follow up to your interview with Daics from some time ago. Maybe they should build a purpose-built retirement centre for ex-AFL players!

Anonymous said...

Is it really that bad? Any stories from any ex players out there???

sam said...

Amazing (and pretty scary) to think about the punishment taken by these guys' bodies, yet we as supporters often take their presence on the field for granted. I remember reading about the Swans players that carried injuries into the 2005 GF, I wouldn't have had a clue about half of the injuries otherwise. It (player welfare) is an important topic and one I'm glad you're bringing to our attention. If a player chose to play on with an injury, I'd be fine with it as long as they were well aware of any risks, but I think the risk needs to be well-known (before the player makes the decision).

bernie said...

I know what these guys are feeling. All you want to do is play footy and will just about do anything to get out there. Needles do the job for a few hours, but in the years to come, they take their toll. It's hard to say if it's worth it. As you get older, you think to yourself that it wasn't.

CelloBella said...

I've never thought about that... maybe it also explains why so many of them have girl babies - the "female" sperm being just that much tougher. :)

Anonymous said...

I hear that Mark Orval never recovered emothionally from that incident. Apparently he took up a promising career as a lady boy dancer at Harry's Bar in Singapore.

Raphnexx said...

that's strange .scary