The former Leeds and Liverpool player talks about playing through excruciating pain during his career and the price he's having to pay for it now.
Professional footballers have much to be grateful for. Many of us are paid a fortune to do the most popular and sought after job in the world. But I’ll never let anyone tell me it’s a free ride – not when I’ve just had to undergo the kind of medical procedure that would give you nightmares.
Thanks to the fact I took painkilling injections to play football for years when my body was telling me to do otherwise, I have recently had to have spinal surgery. The doctors took out the two lowest discs out of my back and replaced them with metal ones. The rest of the discs were damaged too but we decided to try and realign them. It’s been the worst pain I’ve ever felt my life. To be honest, for 10 days after the operation it felt like someone had kicked the s*** out of me - and I reckon I’ve got a high pain threshold!
Even though the operation was a success, I don’t think I’ll ever be completely fine but hopefully I’ll be able to lift my kids again. My youngest is 18 months and my oldest whose five loves to be thrown in the air, but for the last couple of years it just got too painful. This problem all dates back to when I was Liverpool and I had injections to play games. Then after Liverpool when I was at Leeds nothing changed; I’d get an injection every Saturday just to play.
To be honest, for 10 days after the operation it felt like someone had kicked the s*** out of me
Managers are under pressure to put out the best team so they don’t think about the long term effect. When I was at Stoke between 2007 and 2009, Tony Pulis would put his arm round me and ask me how my family was. Next thing you know, you’re out there playing on Saturday when you probably shouldn’t be.
I don’t think some managers understand how much pain you’re in. At Stoke I was having injections in the ball of my foot. That’s not a nice place to have a needle. As every game approached, I would get stressed just thinking about it. But I don’t blame any manager - it was my decision in the end. When I was at Leeds I didn’t want to risk not playing because we were on a great Champions League run. If I was injured I knew I’d lose my place to either Jonathan Woodgate or Lucas Radebe.
I virtually moved in with my physio during that Champions League run because I was having treatment four or five times a day. I remember the home tie against Deportivo, my ankle was virtually hanging off, but I wasn’t going to let an injury deny me those nights.
I hope that players nowadays are thinking about their future lives. I’m lucky because I earned enough to be able to pay for this expensive operation but there will be many players further down the leagues who won’t be able to afford to.
Dominic Matteo was speaking on behalf of Sportingbet, for the best range of sporting odds and a free £50 bet visit www.sportingbet.com
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