James Haskell has needed complicated surgery on his big toe to save his rugby career and now faces up to six months of carefully controlled rehabilitation to get him back for England’s Six Nations Grand Slam defence.
Haskell, named Player of the Series as England made history with a 3-0 hammering of Australia last month, left hospital on Tuesday after a four hour operation to reconstruct his left big toe.
Incredibly, Haskell delivered his career best England performances in Australia despite constant pain from a toe injury that needed pain killing relief before every game.
The 31-year-old Wasps captain, who has won 70 England caps, said:”The surgeon went in and removed a bit of bone and reattached stuff that had come off to put me in the best position to come back. The big toe is key to your balance and how you run and mine was sticking up. I couldn’t touch the floor because with the tendons gone, it had retracted.
“If I didn’t have the operation the toe would have stuck up even more then bent back on itself which is why it was essential to get it done. I had to have the operation to play because if I had left it, I would not have been able to run again.
“After the Australian tour the toe had not got any better and I couldn’t walk properly. I tried walking on the side of my foot or with the boot on. It was weird that the toe couldn’t be put flat down and there is no way I would have been able to run.
“I think I may have broken the toe a couple of years ago and then in the Grand Slam game with France in Paris (March 19) I made a tackle and my boot twisted. From then it was really painful and for the last six Wasps game of the season I played with anaesthetic in my foot because it was getting progressively worse.
“During the second test against Australia in Melbourne I thought a stud had gone through my boot and asked for a new boot, but when I put it on the pain was still there.
“I couldn’t last the game and I knew it was worse than before. It was always sore after matches but the Wasps and England physios had done a good job managing it and I wouldn’t train at the start of the week before games. I wanted to play in the third test but my foot was so sore I couldn’t walk without the protective boot.
“It turned out I had damaged a plate in my big toe and some ligaments and tendons around the bone had been affected, but I would do it all again to get a 3-0 win over the Wallabies.”
Haskell, who sent his fans a video message from his hospital bed after the operation, is famously restless, but knows he cannot rush back to the gym with girlfriend Chloe Madeley.
“I will start my rehab in three or four weeks and because it isn’t run of the mill, the surgeon wants to see me around then and I know it could be up to six weeks before I can do anything meaningful:” added Haskell, who is about to move house from Ascot to Northamptonshire to be nearer Wasps new training base at Coventry. Haskell has already warned England captain Dylan Hartley he is moving to his “manor”.
“I will take a couple of days before I start trying to move around because this is not the type of injury you want to starting pushing. I value my rugby more than anything else and I am going to take it pretty easy and keep the weight off the foot for a couple of weeks and then take it from there.
“I hope my fitness will help me get back as soon as possible and from previous injuries I know that the body resets itself a bit. I will stay and try healthy eating wise but it is going to be some time and there will be muscle wastage. With the way I feel I hope to come back quicker than expected and I see this as an opportunity to improve my mobility and other areas. The last thing you want to do is force anything because this is such a fiddly area of the body.
“I completed on my new house this week and will be moving in the next two or three weeks and so my timing hasn’t been great. Luckily I have amazing parents and a lovely girlfriend and they will move all my stuff. If you asked all three of them they would say I would be incapable of moving myself anyway. I am going to be the guy in the wheelchair dictating what goes and what gets dumped.
“I have written to Dylan(Hartley) asking if I can come into Northampton once I move up and he said he would get back to me! If I have any pest control problems I can call on Tom Wood and his archery skills plus his chainsaw will be useful for any gardening assignments.”
The Rugby Paper