Henshaw: A man on a mission

Word was that in-depth medical updates would be a thing of the past.

Pic: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Data protection being all the rage these days, we were told that sportspeople would become so much more guarded about the nature of injuries sustained and how recoveries are managed. 

Jamie Heaslip has emerged as the movement’s poster boy.

Injured in the warm-up to Ireland’s Six Nations game against England in 2017, the Kildare man retired just about a year later having resolutely refused to enlighten the masses as to the exact nature of his problem or how it was progressing.

Robbie Henshaw didn’t get that memo.

The 24-year old’s season looked in jeopardy back in February when he ‘did’ his shoulder in scoring a try for Ireland against Italy in Dublin, the weight of Tommaso Benvenuti crashing down on him as he stretched out an arm to dot down. 

Ten weeks to the day later and he was back on duty, putting in a brutally effective and impressive shift for Leinster as they ploughed through Scarlets in the Champions Cup semi-final at the same Aviva Stadium.

How exactly did he recover so fast?

“It was a full reconstruction but it was through keyhole so it wasn’t an open incision, if you know what I mean. I had eight anchors put into the labrum so it was a reconstruction, as far as they go, but when the shoulder dislocated, my bone socket joint wasn’t harmed.

“So, the bone itself was pretty intact. Seemingly, if that’s damaged that sets you back a lot. My bicep tendon wasn’t ruptured so that was a bonus as well. I just had the labrum repaired which was lucky in that there was no excess damage, only the labrum.”

Trained actors in ER and Casualty have delivered diagnoses with less clarity and precision than Henshaw this week and it was that singular focus, on what happened and how he could get back playing, that fed into his swift return.

He paid dutiful tribute to Hannan Mullett, his surgeon at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry, and to the medical staff at Leinster.

None of whom would have been so effective had Henshaw not knuckled down to the task in the manner he did.

Post-surgery I was straight into the club after two days. If you get a long-term injury, usually you keep your head down, you get into your shell and you stay away from the place for a couple of weeks, just to get your head right.

“I was straight back in and keen to do work on it straight away. I was pretty much pain-free a couple of days afterwards and got out of the sling as quickly as I could and then thankfully didn’t have any setbacks.

“I hit all my markers so we could take that aggressive approach. Initially, my thoughts were the end of May/June, I’d hopefully get back for the Australia Tests, but thankfully it’s been a swift recovery.”

His enthusiasm for the grind of rehab was instructive. Missing the lion’s share of Ireland’s Grand Slam campaign would have been difficult to square away but it was for days like this Saturday’s Champions Cup final that he quit Connacht for Leinster in the summer of 2016.

He left the Sportsground having pocketed a PRO12 winner’s medal courtesy of a win against his new club in the final but Connacht offered only intermittent involvement in the European Cup’s pool stages and no more. 

That was never going to sate his appetite and winning in Bilbao, he admits, would top that day of days with Connacht in Edinburgh two years ago.

“If you look across the board, at any player playing in Europe, even around the world, this competition is the most well-known. It is the best competition in Europe. 

"Any player wants to be in this position. Coming into this week, it’s been a really exciting time.

“I’ve loved every minute of my rugby here, it’s where you want to be. Thinking back to last year, the kind of hurt we had over in France against Clermont, we brought it into this year. 

"The job isn’t done yet but we’ve definitely grown as a team since that occasion last year.”


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