Parsons received ‘fantastic, motivating, inspiring letter’ from Springbok legend de Villiers

TOM PARSONS IS targeting a comeback in the early part of next summer as he recovers from the devastating knee injury he suffered against Galway last May.

Parsons underwent the third and final surgery on his knee in Santry Sports Clinic recently, following the injury he sustained in Mayo’s Connacht semi-final defeat to the Tribesmen.

His year was ended when he dislocated his knee and ruptured three of the four ligaments in his knee, tearing the other. 

But the 30-year-old is on the mend and remains hopeful he could play a part in Mayo’s 2019 championship campaign.

“With these injuries, you take this on a week by week, month by month basis,” Parsons said at the launch of the GPA’s 2017 Annual Report.

“If you consider an ACL injury, that I reconstructed three weeks ago, combined with a PCL, the ACL advisory is seven to nine months. You’d certainly be erring on the side of the nine months with the complexity of it from my last surgery date which would bring me up to next June.

“But I could be training in other capacities in May of next summer. To be honest, the focus with injuries like this is you set your mini goals and they become your big focus.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Your end focus is your visualisation to play with Mayo, and the exact date or time or game, or how that happens, you certainly don’t set that. But I don’t want to rule myself out – I’ll hopefully feature for Mayo in 2019 in some capacity.”

The Charlestown clubman had ligaments grafted from other parts of his body, in addition to ligaments he received from a deceased donor. 

“I now have numerous body-parts of mine in my knee, including my hamstring, my quad, and actually a cadavers ligaments – somebody’s Achilles ligament in my knee.

“So depending on the quality of that ligament, I could be jumping even higher next year when I get back!” he quipped.

“Usually with an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) or a single or double ligament injury that needs a full reconstruction, they take grafts from your hamstrings and your quads, and they’ve done that with me.

“But the only other option is to go into my other leg or get a cadaver ligament. So it is common practice that they do that.

“I suppose it does come with a little bit more risk, that your body can accept that ligament. To date, we’re three and a half weeks post surgery, everything is going well and smoothly.

“It’s just amazing the science and technology behind rehab and surgery and physiotherapy. It’s amazing how the body can adapt to some of the movement patterns that I was doing in the gym and the rehab, before my last surgery was amazing. Right down to nearly a single leg squat on my bad leg. The body is amazing.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I’m 30, and the advantage of being 30, what that brings is probably more experience and patience in dealing with an injury like this. Nobody has the solution or the answer.

“You really need to go and get it and research it and you really need to be the driver of your own destiny here.

“I suppose, being 30 that has been a huge advantage to me because I’ve been able to take a real professional approach to it and a mature approach to it as well. I really don’t think I’ve rushed any stage and I don’t plan to.”

Parsons said the All-Ireland defeats Mayo have suffered in recent years helped strengthen his mental resolve and he used visualisation techniques to get himself through the tough times.

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“I’ve now fully reconstructed all the ligaments in my knee, which is a stage which I’ve been visualising since day one because it’s been a gruelling process,” he explained.

“I’ve had three quite heavy surgeries over a prolonged period of three and a half months. It was a challenge, but it’s really promising that it’s all done and everything has gone to plan.

“A big part of sport is visualising yourself performing, visualising yourself on the big day. This week I was afforded the opportunity to put on the 2019 Mayo jersey. When I was asked to do that, I thought, ‘What better way, what better visualisation cue to have than a picture of me wearing the 2019 Mayo jersey?’

“That will give me huge motivation and drive to really focus on my recovery, to hopefully put on that jersey next summer.”

Jean de Villiers in action for South Africa in 2015

Source: PA Archive/PA Images

The midfielder also revealed Munster and South Africa legend Jean de Villiers was among those in touch with him during his lengthy rehab.

“The difficulty is being uncomfortable, trying to get the quality sleep that you need to recover from any injury. That has been a challenge. But in terms of my rehab and the support network I’ve had around me, it’s just been fantastic.

“My wife being a physio, linking up with the Mayo medical team, the surgeons and the physios in Santry, credit to Ray Moran who has led that team, right down to having conversations with Eoghan Masterson of Connacht Rugby, Jean de Villiers of South Africa Rugby, who have all given me their advice and consultation on the best ways to overcome this injury.

“So I have a huge and fantastic support network which is so important to overcome any injury.

“A best buddy of mine, Joe McBrien, a club footballer, contacted him (de Villiers) through a social media platform.

“Fair play to Jean, he sent me a fantastic, motivating, inspiring letter about the story of his recovery to come back at the age of 34, to play in the World Cup. The injuries were very similar, his reconstruction was fully artificial, which was different to mine.

Eoghan Masterson in action for Connacht

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Another guy, Eoghan Masterson who plays with Connacht Rugby, has visited me two or three times, even in Santry.

“It’s amazing the goodwill from people, not only in the GAA community but in other sport codes in Ireland. In this case, a sport code totally disconnected from Gaelic game, and not even in Ireland, a guy who has given his time.

“Not only that, but his physiotherapist who rehabbed him is also sending regular information back to my wife Carol, tips and processes and procedures in rehab of this injury. It’s very encouraging, and it’s inspiring that these guys take the time out to respond to you.

“I hope that if I can bounce back from this I can repeat that gesture of goodwill to maybe another guy who’s struggling and I’ll be sure to do that.”

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