Russ Birchley: Road to recovery

Taking centre stage is Monk Nutrition brand ambassador and Ice Hockey player, Russ Birchley. We talk knee injuries, operations and recovery, as he aims to get back on the ice in 2019.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 months since my injury and I still have another 5 months before I can play competitively!”

In May 2018 during a friendly ice hockey game, Russ collided with another player on the boards which resulted in torn knee ligaments, an injury that’s quite common in ice hockey due to the nature of the sport. Russ plays ice hockey for the British Army Blades, British Army Infantry and for a local team in his hometown of Sheffield, the Don Valley Vikings.

“I’ve had plenty of injuries over the years, but this is the worst injury I’ve suffered. I broke my ankle during a game when I was 16 which put me out for a while, then there have been minor injuries like concussions, groin strains and smaller breaks, but tearing my knee ligaments has been the most painful and longest recovery time period for sure. I bumped a player into the boards and followed up, as I did the momentum brought the other player backwards off the boards and crashing down on to my right leg, forcing the knee down and inwards. I felt 3 ‘pops’ in my leg as we fell to the ice, those ‘pops’ as I now know were a fully ruptured ACL, cartilage and MCL, commonly known as a blown knee.”

Russ Birchley with a heavily swollen right leg after tearing his ACL, MCL and Meniscus knee ligaments during an ice hockey game.
Russ with a heavily swollen right leg after tearing his ACL, MCL and Meniscus knee ligaments during an ice hockey game.

A blown knee used to be known as a career ending injury, but with improved medical knowledge and operations, players can typically return to high level sports after 12 months, a return sooner is not recommended due to a higher risk of re-injury. (If you’re wondering what a blown knee looks like, that’s 1 day post injury…ouch!)

“Post-op recovery has been very tough, I’ve lost a lot of muscle and had a few setbacks, so right now I’m behind where I should be at 8 months. We’ve upped my core strength workouts and reduced impact training, going for more isolation work to try and reignite the muscles. I opted to have a bone to bone patella knee graft, which is believed to have slightly better results for sports players. The only real downside is the numbness on and around my knee, but hopefully the feeling will return over time. Regardless of which graft you go for, the recovery time frame is the same anyway. Unfortunately for me that means I will miss the Tri-Service Armed Forces Ice Hockey tournament in June which I am devastated not to be playing in again for the second year. I got injured weeks before the tournament last year annoyingly. Right now, my goal is to be fit for the Army inter-service championships in October, so that’s what I’m working towards as a full return.”

Russ Birchley using a leg press machine post knee surgery.
Back in the gym rebuilding leg hypertrophy after muscle wastage.

We asked Russ what motivates him to come back from such an injury, which would typically put a lot of people off returning to sports.

“I’ve played hockey from 10 years old; I love the game and I can’t imagine not playing again. It’s a great outlet, a chance to socialise with friends and doing sports is good for mental health in so many ways. I’ve hit rock bottom quite a few times since being injured, but thinking about getting back on the ice keeps motivating me to return a stronger, fitter player.”

We’re looking forward to seeing how Russ gets on over the coming months and we plan to share some of his recovery workouts as he gets back to full fitness. If you are in Sheffield week commencing 3rd June, make sure you visit Ice Sheffield to watch the British Army Blades try to retain their title for the 7th year in a row. Its sure to be a full on ice war between the services!

Good luck Russ and thanks for the interview! You can learn more about our Monk Nutrition UK ambassadors in the ambassador section of our website and discover more about drives them to live for sports.



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Justyna Sobura

Justyna Sobura

Gym Addict | Climber | Plant Based Nutrition Lover
Monk Nutrition UK

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