When Reece Hodge was rushed to hospital he had no idea his life was about to change.
The then 19-year-old Fly Half was playing Rugby Union for the Manly Marlins at Manly Oval. Ten minutes after kick-off, he was left lying in the dirt with his left ankle pointing in the wrong direction.
Hodge had a fractured fibula, a fracture dislocation of the ankle, a syndesmosis tear, and nearly his entire ankle ligaments ripped in half. His injury is a reminder of the real danger of contact sport.
“Someone from the opposite team hit the ruck, my foot got trapped and my body went one way and my leg went the other,” Hodge said.
“It wasn’t a good feeling looking down and seeing your ankle in the opposite direction.”
Injury in sport has been of great concern in recent years. Concussion rules have been implemented in Rugby League with the aim of preventing serious brain damage. Also well publicised was the spinal injury that left 23-year-old Newcastle Backrower Alex McKinnon paralysed, with only a slight chance of walking again.
Deborah Mayall, Patient Manager at Royal North Shore Hospital, has been against her two children playing contact sport since each suffered a serious shoulder injury.
Mayall said the injuries, and her background in intensive care, contributed to her decision in preventing her children continuing Rugby and highlighted spinal cases such as McKinnon’s as of serious concern.
“I (was against) mainly Rugby because of the spinal injuries, they were my main concern in contact sport,” she said.
“It was my background in intensive care. I did (see lots of sports injuries) when I was working clinically.
“We used to get state wide service and I would see quite a few Rugby spinal injuries, and then there were the head injuries.”
Mayall said she would encourage other parents to switch their children into less dangerous sports, such as tennis and soccer if they have any concern for their child’s safety.
There were 202,902 League and Union players in 2011-12. From both codes 2621 players were hospitalised, with 1,333 injuries per 100,000 participants. In comparison Soccer, a lesser contact sport, had 683,292 participants in the same time frame and recorded only less 433 injuries per 100,000 participants.
With less than a third of the injuries and more than three times the participants, the injury statistics clarify why parents like Deborah want their children in other sports, or at least offered more protection.
Chiropractor and expert in sports rehabilitation Simon Couch said that injury in all forms of Rugby is all too common.
“Because it’s so explosive in terms of contact, they’re (Rugby players) getting more bruising and haematomas,” Couch said.
“(I see) heaps of ankles, feet (injuries), medial ligament sprains and the occasional ACL, everything with footy players.
“Eventually that sort of chronic thing, you don’t cope anymore and they become bigger issues.”
Reece Hodge spent seventeen months in and out of surgery. He said goodbye to a Junior World Cup appearance, a professional contract and his independence.
Hodge’s Father, Graham, said that while he looks forward to his son’s return to Rugby, the fear of future injury is a concern he feels greatly.
“There will always be the worry that with every game he plays, there’s a chance he may suffer this pain again.”