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Inside the locker room: Mitchell Pearce and the road to recovery

5 minute read

After rupturing his pectoral muscle during Round Seven of the 2018 season, Mitchell Pearce was told he’d be left sidelined for four months – a devastating blow for the nib Newcastle Knights halfback.

However, there could be some good news for Pearce and his team mates.

We head inside the locker room and chat with the man himself about his injury and recovery and the dedicated rehabilitation team working to get him back on the field.

The Check Up (TCU): Can you describe the first few minutes after receiving the injury?

Mitchell Pearce: I was a bit confused when I first did the injury. On the bus back from Tamworth it was pretty disappointing. I didn’t know how bad it was going to be. The most frustrating thing for me was that we were just starting to build some momentum.

It was a really frustrating period for the first three weeks not being able to do much weights, running or even socialising with the team. I had the sling on for the first month. As hard as it is watching the other boys continue play, it’s all part of footy; you just have to trust the process of recovery.

TCU: Going back to when you first received the injury during the Tigers’ game, did you know immediately that it was going to be serious?

Mitchell Pearce: The physio said I was going to be out for a fair length, so I was really frustrated at the time.

Mitchell knew something serious had happened immediately - Physical Performance Manager, Tony Ayoub

TCU to Mitchell’s Physical Performance Manager, Tony Ayoub: What happens behind the scenes once Mitch was taken off the field?

Tony Ayoub: We suspected it was a pec major tear and it was. The only thing being, where was it? Was it off the bone? Was it off the musculotendons junction?

Unfortunately it was off the musculotendons junction. You can work with them a little bit more aggressively when it’s off the bone, so our worst fears had been realised.

Doctor Mark Perko, one of the leading shoulder surgeons in Sydney came in on his week off and operated three days after the injury, which was a Tuesday. The scans showed that we were looking at 12-14 weeks of rehab.

TCU (back to Mitchell): Have you had many surgeries prior to this? Did you get nervous in the lead up?

Mitchell Pearce: I was a bit nervous for the surgery. I’ve never had surgery before. My girlfriend Zoe took me down to Sydney. I was keen to get under the knife and get out of there.

I’ve been really lucky with injuries; I haven’t had too many. You see some guys, like my teammate Tautau Moga, who has had his fourth ACL and I’m thankful that I haven’t had a shocking injury like that. Going into surgery, all I really remember is putting the little mosquito hat-thing on and the beautiful pyjamas. I remember counting down and then I was out. I woke up groggy.

TCU: How long were you in hospital for post-surgery?

Mitchell Pearce: I got out pretty quickly. It was just a day surgery. I went back to mum’s house. That night I was struggling. I really struggled to sleep the first two nights. It was a scattered sleep. The pain only lasted 10 days or so and then I was back to normal, so it could’ve been a lot worse.

Mitchell Pearce back training with the Newcastle Knights after an injuryCredit: nib Newcastle Knights

TCU to Tony: How do the players take it when you give them the news that that they’ll likely be out of the game for four months?

Tony Ayoub: The guys are ultra-competitive, but tend to look on the bright side of things. They’re asking, ‘when can I get back?’. When Mitchell was injured, that was how our talk went during the first 24 hours. His head space was really good.

TCU: How did Mitchell keep up his fitness up while he was unable to train?

Tony Ayoub: He was brilliant. Pearcey is one of those guys that when you ask him to do something, he’ll do it too often – especially given it was his first time in the gym after three or four weeks in the sling.

We got out of the sling a week early and started working on his range. He was doing some band stuff and isometric stuff, which led us into the gym and now we’re doing some light stuff. It’s a little earlier than we expected, but Doctor Perko has been brilliant with allowing us to move things a little bit quicker. He’s really happy with Mitchell’s progress.

Mitch is in the cardio room and he’s leaning. He’s not meant to lean on it, he doesn’t have that much strength yet, but to see how comfortable he is, has me comfortable. It’s important for him to listen to his body.

TCU: What are the priorities when it comes to Mitchell’s recovery?

Tony Ayoub: The first thing from a range perspective is to try and settle down the scarring; he’s got quite a thick scar. From a physiotherapy perspective, we’re getting in there trying to break up that scar tissue which allows us to get his range back.

He has no pain and has good range out to the vulnerable positions, but he doesn’t have any symptoms. As he progresses, we’re taking him further out and trying to stretch him and help any spasms settle down in his muscles.

Mitch is a wonderful kid, I was fortunate enough to be at the Roosters when he was first coming through. He’s a real quality person and a wonderful competitor. He’s probably sick of me barking at him about what he can and can’t do.

mitchell pearce playing for the Newcastle Knights following his State of Origin injuryCredit: nib Newcastle Knights

TCU: What does the recovery look like?

  • 7-8 weeks post-surgery: Rotator cuff work, push ups and lateral raises, weights upped. Mitchell started kicking a footy again (with his shoulder strapped)
  • 8 weeks post-surgery: Visit with the surgeon for a follow-up
  • 8 weeks onwards: Three lightweight upper body sessions per week in the weights room. Mitchell then moved into up and down off the deck on the training field. Skills work and finally contact work with the pads
  • 11 weeks post-surgery: Mitchell returned to full contact training with the team

For more on Mitchell’s recovery and comeback, check out the nib Newcastle Knights website.

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