'Now I understand what 10 is. This was just excruciating': Tom Parsons reveals extent of 'car accident' injury

By Stephen Barry

Tom Parsons has revealed the extent of the horror injury he sustained in Mayo's Connacht SFC quarter-final defeat to Galway.

The 30-year-old explained that of the four ligaments in his knee, he's ruptured three of the four and torn the fourth.

He has torn a calf muscle off the bone, as well as other tears to his calf and hamstring. His knee is also dislocated.

"It's a rare injury. Even trying to find case studies is so hard. There might be two or three a year and they're probably trauma injuries or bike or car accident injuries," Parsons told Off The Ball on Newstalk.

"It's rare you'd get that injury in a game, especially a GAA game. I've found some case studies in rugby, with low tackles and rucks, it might be a bit more common. It has happened and there's been guys who've returned so that gives me great confidence.

"If I look hard enough, there's millions of cases of people who haven't come back but once you've two or three case studies of people who have come back, that's all I need - to have light at the end of the tunnel."

Parsons underwent surgery on his knee last Saturday at the Sports Surgery Clinic, Santry, but doctors were only able to repair half of the knee.

The other half of the operation on the ligaments located deeper in his knee will have to be undertaken in three months' time, once the inflammation is gone.

"We were able to do half of the knee and we're looking at three months to go in and do the rest of it.

"That's frustrating because I'll be in the crutches and a brace building that the knee to go in and do more surgery again. If the next surgery goes well and I can get back walking and doing real exercises, mentally that'll be huge.

"With every surgery comes complications so I have to keep expectations down at the moment. I'm conscious to not jump steps here. You can't go looking at the end picture."

The Mayo midfielder described his recollection of the incident, where his leg was injured in a collision with Galway's Eoghan Kerin.

"It was just another tackle, a one-on-one tackle. I just remember leaning over Eoghan Kerin and my leg being in trouble, trying to get that leg out, then his weight shifted one way and my shifted going the other way, and I was flat on my back. I got a glimpse of what was on the floor and that was tough.

"I looked down and absolute credit to my teammate Aidan O'Shea, within seconds, he had his paw on my forehead and pushed my head back. He said 'Tom, relax, don't look at it' and waved in the medical team.

"To experience the pain was something I can't get my head around. In a deep tissue massage, when you're asked what the pain is, I'd be the first to say that's eight or nine out of ten. Now I understand what 10 is. This was just excruciating."

Parsons said he needed to look at the picture of the incident to understand it, but has no urge to seek out the video.

"I needed to look at the picture to understand the mechanics of it, what happened and why it happened. I've not looked at the video and I've no grá to look at the video.

"From a pure rehab perspective, I had to understand it and get my head around it."

Parsons has been in touch with some rugby players who have been through the same rehabilitation process.

Connacht forward Eoghan Masterson spoke about a similar injury previously, saying "I had to learn to walk again. My leg was unbelievably wasted away, my calf and quad had completely vanished".

Former Munster centre and Springbok centurion Jean de Villiers described his recovery as "nothing short of a miracle. When I was laying there on the Cardiff turf in severe pain, I thought to myself I’d be lucky if I ever walk again."

Parsons is using both as his case studies.

"Professional athletes can come back within 12 or 15 months. Eoin Masterson has given me words of wisdom and he was 12 or 13 months. Another one, Jean de Villiers was up on nine or ten months.

"I've been told not to benchmark off of anybody else's injuries because they're so different depending on if you're using artificial ligaments or your own ligaments or donor ligaments."

They'll help him along the way, as will the messages of support he's received in the meantime.

"Andy Moran called down yesterday for lunch. Dublin players, Galway players, hurlers, GAA people have been dropping me thousands of messages.

"I've read every single message and it does help. The support and goodwill is huge. I've digested all of that and it'll be in four months time when I'm low and wondering if this rehab is worth it, I'll go back to those messages.

"I will hold it close to my heart and it's given me great encouragement."

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