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From bench to ball-up: a local athlete’s road to recovery

Canberra local Connor Hart is a passionate athlete and has been playing sport his entire life. Growing up he started playing rugby league but when he turned 14 he found his love for Australian football and never looked back. Connor is now 20 and since then has played every season in the Australian Football League for the Gungahlin Jets, barely missing a game or training. Connor was aiming to take his ability to the elite level and play in the AFL professionally, the sky was his limit.

Connor was a talented football player, with speed and skills combined he was dangerous when he set foot on the field. It was all going well for Connor as the season was getting closer and closer until one moment during a trial match Connor’s career changed forever.

Connor was just like every other 20 year old, fearless and reckless. Connor was never worried about getting hurt, which ultimately was his downfall. During this trial match, Connor went to punch the ball in order to stop the opposition from scoring a goal. In this action, Connor fully extended his arm popping his shoulder out of its socket.

In this Q&A Connor and I sit down to discuss the shoulder injury that left him on the sidelines for over two years. We talked about his recovery program and what he needed to do to fully heal.

Connor Hart’s Story

Q: Can you walk us through exactly what happened?

A: I’d always had sort of weak shoulders and I just kept on dislocating them a lot. The final one was we were playing a trial game and went to push the ball and the shoulder came out and wouldn’t go back in. After that, I had to go to the hospital to get it put back in. After that, I was seeing physios and they recommended surgery, so I missed last season and this season because of that.

Q: How long along did this happen?

A: It was just over a year ago about March last year.

Q: Did you know straight away it was dislocated?

A: Instantly, as soon as it happened, I knew it was dislocated. Since it has happened so many times before I wasn’t so much scared, I just wanted to get it back in and get playing again but that didn’t happen.

Q: How many times previously has it dislocated? 

A: That was number ten for the right shoulder and two for the left shoulder.

Q: Can you walk us through what you did after the game?

A: So I was pretty much just in the hospital until nine o’clock at night and the game was at two o’clock so it was quite a while after the game.

Q: What did the doctor say once you got there?

A: The doctor just gave me the green whistle and a bunch of pain killers and tried to relocate it, but it wouldn’t go back in straight away and it was quite excruciating. They tried to get the shoulder back into place as quickly as possible but obviously that didn’t happen since I was still there at nine o’clock.

Q: Are there certain exercises you can do to build up the strength back into your shoulder?

A: A lot of Hypertrophy exercises for the shoulder, making it bigger so it’s harder for it to dislocate.

Q: Have you been keeping yourself fit and in shape?

A: I’ve been trying to say as fit as possible. I’ve been doing a lot of running, still doing a bit of ball skills on my own just trying to keep the skills there along with a lot of gym and strength exercises. I also played half a season of Oztag this year to keep my fitness and skills moving forward.

Q: What steps do you have to take from hereto get back out on the footy field?

A: At this stage just a bunch of rehab, Hypertrophy exercises in the gym as much as I possibly can be, which is hard for someone as small and skinny as me. Basically just a bunch of rehab and consistently doing strength exercises.

Q: What was the most difficult part of this injury?

A: It wasn’t so much the injury or the recovery, but was more so not being able to play, that was probably the hardest thing.

Q: Whenever you get an injury in sport or in life it always has an impact on not just your physical health but mental health as well. Did you find this?

A: Yes, so that was definitely the hardest part. Just seeing the end goal not so much focusing on the here and now, not being like “well this is all over, this is terrible I can’t play”, but instead focusing on I can’t play now but in a few years time I will be able to play and it will all be fine.

Q: What sort of things got you through the hard times?

A: Staying involved with the club and making sure I’m sure keeping up appearances, making sure I’m still around the boys and everything as well as focusing on myself a bit more.

Q: When do you think you’ll be able to play again?

A: Hopefully next season I will be able to play.

Q: Do you think your shoulder be okay and not pop out again?

A: For my right one yeah the one that had most dislocations and surgery on it I think that one will be fine, but the left one is still a little bit loose.

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