McKaigue staying positive as he faces at least nine months out
DERRY defender Karl McKaigue says he is “trying to stay positive” as he begins his recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon that will rule him out for at least nine months.
The 28-year-old underwent surgery at Musgrave Park Hospital earlier this week to repair the damage but is facing potentially up to a year on the sidelines.
A physiotherapist by trade, McKaigue admits it will require very careful rehabilitation if he is to return to the levels he had reached as both footballer and hurler with club and county.
While some Achilles tendon injuries can be healed by using a cast, McKaigue had suffered a complete rupture which meant surgery was the only option to repair it.
He will spend at least the next two weeks in a cast as the scar from the surgery heals, and hopes to move into a protective boot for six-to-eight weeks before beginning the slow rehab process.
“The two ends of my Achilles were fully split, so it’s putting in sutures and getting it pulled back together tight,” explained the Slaughtneil man.
“With a tendon, there wouldn’t be a great blood supply so it just takes a long time to knit back together.
“With a full Achilles rupture, you’re looking around nine, ten, eleven months. If you’re looking to get back to a good level of sport, it’s going to take that.
“To get back just normal activities, just a bit of jogging, you’re looking around six or seven months. But if you’re trying to prepare your body to get back into the demands of high-level Gaelic or hurling, you have to do that wee bit more and it’s just going to take that bit more time.
“You can only take it in stages. This post-operative stage, I’m just trying to limit the chance of infection and get this scar healed pretty well, then see over the next few weeks about trying to build myself up again, getting the walking normalised and things like that.
“At this minute, I don’t want to be wrecking my head too much thinking about ‘what level can I get back to? Will it just be club or will it be county?’ I honestly can’t answer at the minute.
“You’re always going to have your fears with a major injury but at the minute, it’s best trying to stay positive and trying to take care of what I can control.
“The tendon’s a pretty slow area to heal, it’s going to take that time to heal and it’ll take good quality rehab, and a wee bit of luck too to get back to the level I was previously at.
“I’m under no illusions as to how long the road to recovery is going to be.
“At this stage in my career, I’m not going to be taking any chances. I want to get everything right and get myself into as good a shape as possible before even attempting to come back again.”
Having established himself as one of the best, and cleanest, man-markers in Ulster, McKaigue will be a huge loss to Slaughtneil and Derry.
He had suffered a bad ankle ligament sprain in the early part of this year that had ruled him out of the county’s NFL campaign prior to lockdown, and would have threatened his championship participation had things run on schedule.
The rescheduled National League conclusion and Ulster Championship are now out of reach, as the 2021 competitions are also likely to be.
The six-time Ulster Club winner (three football and three hurling) revealed diagnosed the damage himself within a matter of seconds.
“I sort of knew after two or three seconds, I did a mini-assessment on myself, I was 99 per cent sure I’d ruptured it. It wasn’t good.
“I felt the snap, I had a feel around the back of my heel and felt there was a big gap there. You’d normally feel the Achilles pretty easily and there was nothing there, so at that stage I was pretty sure I’d done it.”