Jaws

Eddie Jones training camp in Brighton last week yielded a surprising number of injuries- the most talked about have been Sam Jones broken leg and Anthony Watson’s broken jaw.

It has been confirmed that Sam will be out for several months, but some reports indicated that Anthony may actually be available for some of the autumn tour games.

This seems a tad ambitious to me and I know from experience. In one of my early posts I talked about the injuries I picked up chasing an odd shaped ball – ‘Getting Hurt’ is a bleeding (ha ha) long chapter I can tell you.

Like Sam Jones and Anthony Watson I have broken my jaw and leg playing rugby (although to be fair not in training!). The big difference for me was that I broke both in the same game – in separate incidents.

To save you looking it up (yeah – as if you were about to eh?) I’ve put the details below –

I was playing full back for the 1st XV – Les was still skipper – and I had this habit of kicking ahead and following up with my head high eyes fixed on the ball in the mistaken belief that I might actually get there first, catch it and dive over the line for a spectacular try. Not one of these things ever came true – but I lived in hope and just one success would have been nice..

Anyway running past the opposition forwards with your head up is an open invitation for one of them (at least) to close line you. This involves them hitting you on the chin or neck (either is very effective) with their elbow. Les had warned me about this practice several times (he’d played rugby at Uni in Wales where this was practically an art form).

Safe to say I got short armed (another term for it) and went down heavily. It bloody hurt but I was coerced into carrying on (there still being no substitutes) – my jaw was painful but so was my pride – the ref of course having managed to miss this (amongst many other instances) of  foul play –  to be fair not all (or even most) by the opposition.

Later in the game I did the same thing but remembered to keep my head down as I chased (less enthusiastically now it has to be said). This time the bastard (or one of the other bastards) hacked my legs away. Again it hurt and again I was cajoled into staying on the pitch to the end.

After a shower I was sitting with Bush and Paddy Norton with our coach John Pheasey. I explained to John that my jaw was a tad sore, whereupon he grabbed it and wiggled it about. “You’re fine” he announced. I would have sought to differ with him but the pain was so great and my eyes so full of tears that by the time I recovered he’d buggered off to the bar.

With the help of a shedload of beer I managed to get through the evening and it wasn’t until I struggled to get undressed that I noticed something – I couldn’t get my trousers off. This had nothing to do with the 8 or 9 pints but was a direct result of my leg being extremely swollen.

Sensing that something might be amiss Terry volunteered to take me to the hospital (I was in no condition to drive, obviously – my leg hurt too much to use the clutch). And anyway I was pissed – as in drunk not very annoyed (although to be honest I was both).

So alongside my three month old daughter and a less than impressed Mrs we headed off to Mayday (I kid you not) hospital in Croydon.

They x-rayed the leg and discovered I had a hairline fracture. I was strapped up and told to rest. As an afterthought I mentioned the jaw and the doctor took a quick shufti. He noticed a gap and said he thought I’d lost a tooth – he decided on a further x –ray which informed him that all my teeth were actually still intact but that my jaw was broken (hence the gap which he’d originally thought should have had a tooth in it).

Mayday didn’t do jaws apparently and I was given a handful of painkillers and told to try St Georges in Surrey. It now being gone midnight and with my daughter and wife looking less than chuffed with events we went home.

Next day I found St Georges in Mitcham. I wandered around in what seemed to be a quiet environment until I found a bloke in a white coat who looked at me as if I was stupid and informed me that this was a mental institution. I promise you I’m not making this up. Anyway I left before he offered me a room and then found the other St Georges which seemed to be a bit more on the ball for broken jaws.

A very senior looking doctor with grey hair looked at the x –ray and said it would have to be wired. He said that I could have it under general anaesthetic and be kept in or a local and be out straight away. He implied that, as a tough rugby player, I’d want the local and not take up a valuable bed.

He was most persuasive and since he seemed to be more than competent I stupidly opted for his suggestion.

I was told to come back in 3 hours when I’d be wired together.

I duly returned and found myself in a sort of dentist’s chair being attended by his nurse who was about 12. I looked around urgently for the grey haired bloke only to find that the nurse was in fact a doctor and who would be doing the metal work.

She told me that I would be getting an initial 10 injections to numb my jaw and that if I felt any pain I was to tell her and she’d top up the novacaine. I joked with her that she’d better have a couple of gallons of the stuff on standby. Little did I know!

Do you know how they wire a jaw (or at least how they did it in 1978) – they stick wires with loops directly into the top and bottom of your gums and then lace it all together with another length of wire.

The whole process took over two hours and involved something like 30 odd injections. It was jolly painful I can tell you.

They then give you a list of foods and supplements that will stop you wasting away plus a set of pliers which you have to use if you are sick (so that you don’t choke). I quickly realised that a night on the beer was probably a no no. I also collected a bucket load of painkillers from the pharmacy and was ferried home by Terry for seven weeks of misery.

There were several things they failed to mention – you can’t clean your teeth – the wires go through a new brush every time – and in any case you can’t get at the back. You also can’t yawn – the wires dig into your gums and your mouth fills with blood. The one good thing was that if I’d had straight pegs they would have had to remove a tooth to let me drink the supplements. It’s about the only time I’ve found having a dodgy set of choppers a benefit.

They told Terry to liquidise food so that I could get enough protein but at first I refused this and lived on supplements and milk shakes.

Concerned at my loss of weight Terry insisted that I should have liquidised food – and, to be fair, this worked very well until she did liver. Liver is a bit stringy – even after going through a blender. For several days I had this awful offal taste in my mouth with bits stuck on the wires and between my uneven teeth. No amount of brushing (another five toothbrushes were destroyed) or pints of mouthwash were any good.

I’m still not a big fan of liver and onions.

The guys at work were very understanding and only took the piss for about 6 and a half of the 7 weeks. The merriment was led by John Nicolson – a Scot who I’d previously insisted had an accent that was incomprehensible. He was (and still is) by nature predatory and he enjoyed himself immensely. He’s also the founder of the Jock + 1 club (more later in a post on this group)

My job at the time involved making a lot of presentations – Jock got hold of a ventriloquists dummy and dressed it in rugby kit for me. It made my presentations a bit more interesting than usual I’m told.

I told you it was a long post – the other injury stories run  (which I mostly couldn’t) for about 7 pages – oh, if only the NHS had given air miles!

This all happened back in the late 70’s (19 not 1870 you cheeky bastard!) and I’m sure the medical procedure for a smashed jaw has been improved beyond the ‘stick in wires and sow it together jobbie’, however, I will be very surprised if Anthony Watson is playing again as early as November – and Sam definitely won’t be!

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