It is unbelievable to think that this whole journey started around 4 years ago. I haven’t posted in such a long time so I thought I should write a little update about how things are going. I am happy to still be getting messages and questions from people reading this blog, so hopefully this update can help to inform some of you who are going through a similar process!
Where to start? I guess my last post was around the time when I had just returned to the volleyball court representing Australia in the World League in 2014. The rest of the 2014 national team season was, although very successful, a pretty tough physical battle. I was happy with how my hips were coping with the demands of international volleyball, but I was having some other pretty significant problems. I was so determined to return to the volleyball court in time for the World League in 2014 that I pushed my body to do things it wasn’t necessarily ready to do. I had spent so much time either in a wheelchair or on crutches that I lost muscle strength and also bone strength in my legs. While I had regained a fair bit of the muscle mass, I hadn’t given my bones enough time to regain the strength needed to cope with being a full time athlete. Because of this, I developed pretty bad bone stress in both my tibia’s during the 2014 national team season. Although I managed to get through the matches with the national team, I wasn’t in a position where I could fulfil the commitments of the contract I signed with a team in Greece and decided to return to Australia to rehabilitate the bone stress. It was a pretty tough decision considering it was a dream to return to play professional volleyball, but I knew that it was the right decision for my future.
Although leaving Greece wasn’t ideal, returning to Australia gave me an opportunity to further improve the strength of my hips and better prepare my body for the life of a full time athlete. By the start of the 2015 national team season I was feeling strong, motivated and ready to return to playing volleyball at the highest level. I again represented Australia throughout the whole of the 2015 national team season, which involved travel to Iran, Italy, Serbia, Japan and throughout Australia. I had no significant problems with my hips during the season – just the occasional hip flexor tightness from the travel. A lot of effort went into maintaining my hip strength and keeping the surrounding muscles loose, which I am sure was keeping everything in check. Everything was going really well until I injured my ankle pretty badly during the Volleyball World Cup – just another injury to add to the list!
Soon afterwards I travelled to Będzin, Poland to join my club for the 2015/16 club season. I was really excited to compete in the Polish volleyball league – one of the highest quality leagues in the world. It was always going to be a challenge, and the ankle injury made it considerably more difficult. I competed in Poland for the majority of the season but eventually succumbed to the ankle injury, and returned to Australia to have surgery – keeping in mind that the greater goal was to qualify for the Rio Olympics in May. Cutting a long story short, the Volleyroos were unfortunately unable to qualify for the Olympics rounding out a pretty disappointing few years for the team.
So I write this post from my apartment in Loimaa, Finland, where I am about half way through the club season with Hurrikaani Loimaa. I have developed somewhat of a routine of hip maintenance which includes strengthening the surrounding muscles, stretching and rolling through my hips, glutes, legs and back. This has allowed me to continue to play volleyball at a high level with minimal issues. The amount of travel is always a challenge – in the last 2 weeks we have covered over 2500km and spent over 30 hours in a bus! This inevitably leads to tightness in my hips and some soreness in the hip joints themselves, but with the routine I have developed it is manageable.
I am often asked if I would change anything in the way I treated my hip dysplasia, or if I am happy that I had the PAO surgery. Firstly, I am pretty happy that I had the surgery. I can’t pretend to know what condition my hips would be in now if I hadn’t had the surgery, but I am pretty confident I wouldn’t have been able to continue playing volleyball. I think it was the best option to preserve my hips and continue to function as a professional athlete. Would I change anything? I clearly remember being told by doctors, physiotherapists and some other patients to take it slow, not to rush back into physical activity and to allow enough time for my body to heal. The bone stress that I developed in my tibias is evidence that I didn’t really allow enough time for my body to heal and to adapt to my new hips. Ultimately, having the goal to return to volleyball in time for the World League in 2014 probably wasn’t the best idea for the long term, but I think it definitely gave me something to work towards and was a clear source of motivation through the tougher parts of the recovery. Although the right thing to do was probably to miss playing for Australia in 2014 and take longer to recover, it is hard for me to say that it’s what I would do if I was given my time again. So I guess the answer is no – I wouldn’t change anything in my recovery, but I would advise others to take their time with their recovery, and not to rush getting back into physical activity.
In April last year I joined the team at Healthy Hips Australia in an attempt to help raise awareness of hip dysplasia in Australia. Healthy Hips Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to support those who are affected by hip dysplasia, and help raise awareness of the condition. Head to http://www.healthyhipsaustralia.org.au/ for more information and keep an eye out for updates during Healthy Hips Week from April 23rd-29th!
I don’t know when I’ll post next because at this stage there isn’t too much to report, but I encourage anyone who wants more information or has questions to get in touch through this blog or Facebook. I’ll do my best to answer any questions you might have!