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Bowe: It’s Been A Bit Of A Roller Coaster

Bowe: It’s Been A Bit Of A Roller Coaster

Tommy Bowe’s incredibly quick recovery from a broken bone in his right hand owes much to the player’s own diligence and determination, while Brisbane surgeon Dr. Peter Rowan and the Lions medical and fitness staff also deserve a lot of credit for their high quality input.

The look on Tommy Bowe’s face in the aftermath of the Lions’ win over the Queensland Reds on Saturday, June 8 said it all. The hand injury he sustained in the 46th minute of the game was likely to end his tour prematurely.

But he has turned ‘one of the lowest points of his career’ around thanks to his own impressive powers of recovery allied to the expertise of local surgeon Dr. Peter Rowan and Lions physiotherapist Prav Mathema.

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And such was the Ulster and Ireland winger’s sharpness upon his return to training, he has been pencilled in on the right wing for Saturday’s second Test against Australia in Melbourne – just three shorts weeks after fracturing his second metacarpal.

It a remarkable comeback from a player whose first season back with Ulster was spoiled by the knee ligament damage he suffered in a Heineken Cup pool match before Christmas.

Bowe returned to provincial action in April just in time to prove his fitness for the Lions tour with a three-try haul in six outings for the Ulstermen.

The Monaghan man – dubbed ‘a great bloke and great patient’ by Rowan – admitted that his latest injury recovery was tough both physically and emotionally.

“It has been a real roller coaster few weeks and I’ve done everything and anything to try to get it fixed. I’ve been taking protein shakes, calcium tablets, omega tablets and vitamins as well as having constant icing and physio two, three or four times a day,” he said.

“To go from seeing the fracture put up on the board, the X-ray, to be shown the fracture spiral right through the bone and be told that that’s pretty much my tour over to being told by the surgeon that he’s had guys come back within three weeks was emotional.

“But that enabled me to get back for selection for the second Test. Then I had to go through all the physio and everything else to try and get myself back and available. It has been a bit of a roller coaster.

“But these are the sort of games that you want to be involved in. You play your career in rugby to play in big games. Getting injured is the hardest part of professional sport.

“Whenever you get picked to play in a match like this it makes it all worth it – as long as you win. That’s the big thing and that’s the motivation for us this weekend.

“The boys did all the hard work last weekend, it’s the second half now and we need to come out with a good performance.”

Dr. James Robson, head doctor for the Lions, gave an insight into the work that went into Bowe’s initial surgery and intensive rehabilitation programme when speaking to the Daily Telegraph earlier this week.

Robson and the Lions medical staff sought the opinion of Rowan, an orthopaedic surgeon who has performed similar operations for members of the Brisbane Broncos rugby league team.

After examining Bowe’s injured right hand, Rowan reckoned that there was a chance of him returning to play within three to four weeks. The operation would see three pins inserted into the hand to bind the broken bone together.

“The specialist said he had seen one or two people come back early, maybe not in the time frame we were wanting, but why don’t we do it and give it a go,” Robson told the Telegraph.

“If the surgeon had said no chance, that would have been a different kettle of fish. But he said we had a reasonable chance of three to four weeks and we thought, ‘Why don’t we make it two to three weeks?’

“Instead of being a clean, end-to-end break, it was a spiral fracture, so it came apart in two pieces. That means when you put it back together, the fracture covers a bigger surface area so it is not butting end to end, where you would have to fit a plate, it actually fits in like a jigsaw piece so you had that integrity before you start.

“The three screws went in a different angles to bind the whole thing together and it is that which was the central plank of the recovery.”

It was then up to Bowe and the Lions medics, post-surgery, to make sure the hand healed as quickly as possible – that included icing it six of seven times a day for 20 minutes, undertaking a calcium rich diet, taking medication and a number of physio sessions.

Mathema, who was part of the 2009 tour to South Africa, managed the physio side of it throughout and spent upwards of four hours a day with the winger according to Robson.

“Prav did localised therapy, soft tissue massage and a lot of finger exercises and progressing his grip strength and movement and then start to get Tommy back running to ensure he didn’t lose any of his fitness.”

Speaking at the team announcement, Lions head coach Warren Gatland said that Bowe has ‘slotted in really well this week’ and explained that he is wearing a glove made by Cork company Mycro Sportsgear which is regularly used by hurling and hockey players.

“Credit to the surgeon who performed the operation because there were other surgeons who said it was a 6-8 week injury. He was confident that if he looked after himself Tommy could be back in three weeks,” admitted Gatland, who brought in Bowe for Alex Cuthbert – a try scorer in the first Test.

“He has got a hurling glove he is wearing for a little bit of extra protection, but he has worked hard to get back.

“It is what you expect from a professional sportsman and all the players have been very conscientious about recovering after games and looking after themselves.

“If they have had a knock they’ve had early nights and Tommy just epitomises one of 39 of the squad and how diligent they have been in looking after themselves. He is obviously quality and he brings a lot of experience.

“He has been a fantastic player for both Ulster and Ireland and he has made a fantastic recovery from injury.”

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