Tom Isaacs has been handed a welcome boost at the start of 2010 after being told that he is on course for an early return to action following complicated reconstructive shoulder surgery.
The 22-year old Sevens World Cup winner signed for the Ospreys last summer, but sustained his shoulder injury playing for Swansea in their Welsh Premiership clash against Llandovery at the start of October. Initially ruled out for the season, Isaacs had made great progress already and now faces an intensive rehab programme that should enable him to return to action before the curtain comes down on the 09/10 campaign.
The scrum-half, who was signed with a view to potentially converting to an outside back, will spend the next few months working closely with the Ospreys medical team, which was strengthened earlier this season with the appointment of a third Physio, enabling them to offer enhanced one-to-one support for players on the long term injury list as they work towards their comeback date.
As Head Physio Chris Towers explained, Isaacs has been making great progress, which has forced the region to reassess his potential return to action. He said:
"Tom has just passed the 12 week mark in his recovery process from complicated reconstructive shoulder surgery, which was carried out in two stages. The first procedure was a keyhole operation 12 weeks ago to repair cartilage and tighten ligaments. We then allowed a period of four weeks for the joint to settle following this procedure before the surgeon went ahead with the second stage, which involved taking a bone graft from Tom’s hip to reconstruct part of his shoulder socket as well as further tightening of the joint capsule. In order for Tom’s shoulder to make a good recovery he has had to endure a lengthy 8 week period of immobilisation in a sling, which happily for Tom has just come to an end. It’s important to appreciate the stress involved both physically and psychologically when any elite sports person is faced with a serious long term injury, one day you can be training intensively in a high performance environment and the next you are dealing with disability and the anxiety surrounding a lengthy lay off from the game.
"We must give credit to Tom for his attitude over the course of the last eight weeks, he has complied fully with the limitations placed upon him and worked hard on the rehab/treatment and maintenance aspects of his training as well as taking a proactive approach in gaining an understanding of the nature of his pathology and the stages that he will have to go through in the coming months to get him back on the field. All things considered we couldn’t be more satisfied with where Tom is at this stage as he enters a period of intensive treatment and rehabilitation this month with the objective of restoring full movement in his shoulder and laying the foundations to start a general strength phase through February and March.
"In light of the complex and unusual nature of the surgery we initially felt that Tom’s prospects of returning to play before the end of 2009/10 season would be pretty slim. It’s still early days but the signs at this stage are good and we are looking to challenge expectations and accelerate Tom back to rugby before the end of the season, an objective we consider to be realistic with continued dedication to the intensive programme we will be driving over the coming months."
Speaking about the good news, Isaacs said:
"I’ve just come out of my sling at last, so I’ve been able to crack on with my rehab the last couple of weeks and I can feel it progressing already.The surgeon told me originally not to count on getting back too quickly, but things have come along well the last few weeks. There are five months left of the season and that’s a long time. My range is pretty much back already and over the next month I’ll be working on strengthening it. I’m optimistic about playing again soon, although I’m not going to rush it, I’ve got to make sure it’s all okay and recovered properly. But, I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll be back playing again this season.
"The medical team has been great with me. To be fair, with three Physio’s here now, they are able to commit a lot more time to working with you as individuals in rehab. I’m getting the attention that’s needed and it’s definitely speeding up my recovery. It’s the same as anything, if you only have one Physio rehabbing 8 or 10 boys then they can’t give you as much attention individually. With a bigger Physio pool they are able to put a lot more detail in your rehab, which I think will be reflected in players spending less time on the injury list."
Having met up with his new teammates for pre-season, Isaacs was looking forward to making an impact in an Ospreys shirt following his switch from Newport RFC. However, after making a promising start to the season, injury struck, meaning he has had to endure a frustrating first term at the region. He commented:
"It’s been hugely frustrating to be honest with you. I felt pre-season went really well for me, I was keen to make a good impression and I had a good run in the Gloucester game, then the games I played for Swansea went pretty well. I was happy with where I was, I’d played two games at centre and another two at scrum half and I was pleased. I was named in the Heineken Cup squad as well, which gave me a real lift, as I thought I might be given an opportunity to taste that level of rugby this season, which would have been something new to me.
"You can’t turn back the clock now, I picked up the shoulder injury and I just have to concentrate on the rehab over the next few months, and then aim high for next season. I’m able to do some skills work again for the first time, and that’s where I need to concentrate now. I’m doing regular skills sessions with Gruff Rees, and I’ve just got to get my head down and work hard so that I can remind the coaches that I’m still around."
Elite Performance Director, Andrew Hore, concluded:
"The importance of a strong medical team cannot be underestimated. Our Directors showed great foresight, and understanding of this when they approved the appointment of a third full-time Physio, making us the first Welsh region to employ three Physiotherapists. The clear benefit of this is that the team is not spread out so thinly amongst the squad, and as such, are able to devote much greater time to working with individual players on their rehab.
"The experience of people like Tom, who is making great progress, along with the likes of Lee Byrne and Adam Jones, who have returned to action ahead of schedule, shows that it is a worthwhile investment. The improvements in medical care that we can offer our players will clearly benefit not only the Ospreys, but Welsh rugby as a whole with so many of our squad involved in the national set-up."