Sun | Dec 16, 2018

Playing it Forward

Published:Monday | January 29, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Former Professional Rugby Player Brian O'Driscoll once said, "Rugby gave me a confidence. I was quite shy and relatively timid, but it gave me the confidence to be a little bit more outgoing and back myself a bit more." College-rugby player Douglas Evelyn found the courage to not only excel at the sport, but to recover from an injury, walk away when it was necessary, and help others on their athletic journey as well.

Evelyn told Flair in an interview recently that he was introduced to rugby while attending Campion College: "Students were required to do a sport or service club so in fourth form, I decided to try rugby." He explained that he was horrible at the sport at first, dropping the ball every time he needed to catch it. Whenever he fumbled, he had to do push-ups as punishment, but that only made him stronger and better at it over time.

He went on the University of the West Indies (UWI) to continue the sport, training three times per week on agility and tactics while hitting the gym for muscle building. He did all this while he worked there as a trainer. All the hard work paid off when he won the internal championship with the UWI team. He said by the following year, everyone was gunning for them as they defended their title.

But in the semi-final match against Mico Teachers' University College, his life, as he knew it, would change forever. "I was chasing a player to make a tackle and I stepped down on an unleveled part of the field because I was going so fast. My thigh muscles contracted to try to stop me from falling and snapped my femur (thigh bone) in two before I even hit the ground. The first thing I uttered was, 'Jah know star! This is not happening'."

As the pain intensified, he was rushed to University Hospital of the West Indies to undergo surgery. An intramedullary rod was placed in his thigh bone and he was on crutches for the next 12 weeks. Going up three flight of stairs on crutches, in the beginning, was the hardest thing he had ever done in life. And it was then that he realised that recovery was going to be rough, "If going to up steps was difficult, imagine moving around for school. That was a challenge."

But he did not let that deter him from getting better. He performed static muscle exercises, which consisted of contracting and relaxing the muscles. He was instructed by his physiotherapist to execute in bed because he couldn't put any weight on the leg. He just had to ensure that he maintained motion in his leg, hip, and knee to avoid them seizing up.

He returned to classes at the UWI after being on bed rest for a month and even began working out, focusing solely on his upper body. He still was unable to put any pressure on his leg. When he was finally able to put weight on the leg again, he had a clinical rotation to do for his bachelor's degree in physiotherapy. That's where Therapy by Terri Physio Oasis came in.

They do aquatic therapy. As a student, he would go into the pool with his patients. Dr Terri-Ann Samuels-James noticed a slight limp when he walked. She asked me what happened and he told her his story. She gave him a few exercises in the pool. If he had a patient he would go into the water with them, and monitor their exercise while doing his own exercises. "It really helped me, because the water took a lot of the weight off of the leg itself but assisted in working the muscles so that they could build in strength," he said.

By the time Evelyn had finished with the rotation, his leg was much stronger: he was able to resume jogging and running and even went back to the gym, doing light workouts. Six months later, the doctor gave him the go-ahead to resume rugby training and in no time he was back on the field, reunited with his first love. But something was different. He no longer played fearlessly, and with rugby, it's all or nothing at all, so he made the decision then and there to close that chapter.

 

SHIFTING FOCUS

 

Playing it forward, he shifted his focus to his other strengths: personal training and physiotherapy. "I love fitness, so pushing and encouraging others to reach their goals through exercise brings me great joy," he said. As for physiotherapy, he was able to offer insight to athletes that others couldn't, because he was once in the position they found themselves in. "I've seen athletes come in with various injuries, [especially young ones] where I work at Therapy by Terri, and they're looking for sports scholarships to attend school abroad. So they're really depending on this sport to help them in getting a better education and to advance them in life," he says.

He continued by noting, "With physiotherapy, I give them exercises and treatments similar to what I did, I understand the process better, in terms of their response to the injury and their willingness to get better. I've seen where the pool therapy has helped me and assisted young and even seasoned athletes in getting better, so it's like coming full circle."

But it is not always a bed of roses. The thorn comes in when persons get frustrated with the process of physio. Maybe it is not going fast enough and they have deadlines, or their coaches need to check their for progress and they are not where they want to be. He reassures them that if they want to fully recover, they have to pace themseleves - nothing beats an injury quite like a reinjury. "It's better we spend the time and say, don't run this week, let's take the time to properly treat the injury before going back stronger and faster and performing better."

He also shares that there is a lot of psychology involved as well: he has to be able to sympathise with his patients. He also has to be able to motivate them, particularly when the process isn't going as quickly as they would like so that they're comfortable enough to effectively recover.

So, do you have an injury and need physiotherapy? You can find Douglas Evelyn at Therapy by Terri. For more information, visit their Instagram @therapybyterri or website www.therapybyterri.com/

krysta.anderson@gleanerjm.com.com