Being injured is part and parcel of professional sport. Some pain is a minor affair and little more than an irritant.
The more niggly discomfort has to be carefully handled, and the serious problems can create or deny opportunities at the highest level. You only need to look across the last few days to know how big an influence injuries can be.
Andy Murray’s win at Queens Club on Sunday was just the preparation he would have wanted for Wimbledon as he adjusts from clay to grass. Conscious of the importance of doing well at the All England Club, Murray decided not to play the French Open in order
to rest his back injury.
With the US hard court season to follow what will hopefully be a long campaign at SW19, he took the view that his least favourite surface was the one to skip, although Murray hates missing any major tournament. It was a balanced view and one that at 26 makes sense. He broke through early, was in the world’s top 10 as a teenager and already has above average mileage on his tennis clock.
While Murray’s decision was one of choice, Gloucestershire cricketer Ian Saxelby faces another full year without bowling an over
in anger. After missing the finale to last season with what was worryingly referred to as a degenerative knee injury, he was unable to force his way into the team at the start of this season because of on-going issues in his right shoulder. As a right arm seam bowler of brisk pace, it’s just about the worst possible combination.
He had surgery last Wednesday and now has to target a return in 2014. Fair enough you might think, except that he missed the whole of 2010 season as well with an injury to the same shoulder that also needed an operation. Saxelby is younger than Murray, and I was fortunate enough to see his career best spell at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, but I worry that his body is not physically up to what he is asking it to do. I hope that concern is misplaced.
Amongst a full weekend of international rugby, the wins for the Lions and England also showed what part injuries can play. Gloucester’s Jonny May would have expected to be in the stand for England’s second Test victory in Argentina, but Christian Wade’s call up to the Lions party gave May only a few hours notice of his international debut.
He had little chance to show what he could do in a attacking sense as the headlines were stolen by Marland Yarde, Kyle Eastmond and the scrummaging of the England pack, but when the elite squads are chosen for 2013-14 he should certainly be in the Saxons group, if not the 30 classed as the “senior” squad.
As for the Lions, it’s a good job that the original party was not a closed selection with no replacements allowed. Already Zebo, Twelvetrees, Wade and Barritt have been added, all of them backs, and all of them probably having thought their chance
of a Lions test this summer had gone. It shows the high level of wear and tear, and you wonder how often those at the very top compete injury free.
How relevant an injury is depends on your sport. I recall Gloucester’s Scott Redding – still the Moto 2 championship leader after his fourth place at Montmelo on Sunday – telling me how surgery on his hand had opened up during a race last year and he continued to finish second with blood pouring into his glove. Imagine the pain of that, although Redding probably never gave it a moment’s thought. He wasn’t going to let an injury get in the way of a good result, and when it comes to sport’s real winners, he’s not alone.
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