During the start of 2023, training was going perfectly; I was managing my training load well and the body was responding. I’d made some big performance jumps, resulting in my best VO2 max and power results in the LAB on the bike. My running and swimming were also ticking along well.
Then…. after a shift at work, whilst cycling home along the outer city trail a reckless driver drove through a stop sign and took me out on the cycle path. I knew straight away it wasn’t good. I was knocked unconscious and woke up enroute to the Royal Melbourne Hospital. I was discharged from the trauma ward about 48hrs later, on crutches, arm in a sling and in considerable pain.
Mum came to the rescue, collected me and my belongings from Melbourne and we made the journey back home to East Gippsland. The plan was to stay until I could move around independently. We had been advised I’d be much improved in a week however, still having to manage my pain with strong medication a week later we knew there was more to the story.
After multiple trips to the Olympic Sports Medical Centre for various X-ray’s and MRI’s I was diagnosed with a fractured fibula and grade three damage on the ligament which connects the shoulder and collar bone.
This was an incredibly hard time for me mentally. My shoulder was borderline to being a grade two or three tear. Some doctors were saying 6 to 12 months recovery including surgery, while other doctors were saying 6 weeks in a sling. The mixed messages made this time very challenging for me. Personally, I enjoy setting goals and mapping a pathway and this was making everything blurry, I couldn’t see a clear road to recovery.
During week three post-accident we started consulting a shoulder specialist experienced in treating professional swimmers and tennis players. After many X-rays of both shoulders, holding weights in each and comparing movements, trying to manage the pain, we were able to diagnose a grade 2 shoulder injury. In the circumstances the best possible outcome – 6 weeks in a sling and “you should be good to go”.
Finally, I could begin to see the road to recovery.
I could now see light at the end of the tunnel, I guess. Some rough timelines in being able to walk again and then slowly return to the sport. All my energy went to healing as fast as possible.
This meant sleeping 12-14 hours a night, eating mum’s amazing healthy food, staying as immobilised as possible, reading books, listening to podcasts, and planning a 2023/24 race season in the hope I could compete.
The time went past surprisingly fast. I had so much support from family members, friends, and sponsors. As I started being able to move around on my crutches, I spent more time hanging out with my brother fishing, catching up with family for breakfasts and attending races where I had planned to compete to support my friends who could race.
Week 9, dad and I travelled down to Melbourne for the final set of scans, and I received the all clear to ditch the crutch and remove the sling. It felt amazing, but this was just a small step in the long journey to ‘return to full fitness’.
It was now time to visit my friends at Camberwell Sports Spinal Medicine and put together a plan. I moved back to Melbourne, University kicked off for the year and I started slowly introducing more swimming, riding and running, while working closely with the CSSM team on a Wednesday and completing 3 weekly gym sessions prescribed by the team to help build the foundation back. This is so incredibly important for an endurance sport like triathlon to avoid future injuries.
I’m now in week 6 or recovery. I’ve found a great routine between work, training, university studies and am enjoying the journey back and am on track to head over to Europe late May/Early June and catch the back end of the European tour.
The main focus from my end is to recondition his body overall to best prepare him for his upcoming competitions. We know Tom sustained quite a heavy fall off his bike in mid January. He sustained a grade III AC joint sprain, concussion, and bone bruising on his knee. He also has had recurrent and previous ankle sprains.
Therefore, we are utilising exercise rehab as his main form of rehab focussing on developing low body strength and stability that will allow him to return to his cycling and running loads. We are also focussing on his shoulder positioning and control that will allow him to return to swimming and maintain an efficient swim stroke.
Tom is diligent in his rehab sessions and extremely committed outside of the clinic. He has a proactive approach to his own rehab and gym work that is only benefiting and assisting his progress in physio. The next phase of his programming will shift into a bit more of a strength/endurance block that will allow him to make greater improvements in his cycling, running and swimming performance.
We admire Tom’s dedication to his rehab and can’t wait to see how he goes this year!
2023 #TeamCSSM athlete Tom Fisher specialises in off-road triathlons, most recently representing Australia overseas in the World Championships placing an incredible 5th position. Tom says that he has learnt many valuable life skills as a triathlete including time management, communication skills and discipline.
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