John Souttar believes he is bang on schedule in his attempts to return to full fitness.
The Scotland defender suffered a horror injury back in February when he ruptured his Achilles, ruling him out of action for seven months.
All too familiar with the long road ahead, having fallen victim to the same injury albeit on the opposite ankle two years ago, the 23-year-old has been working through a rehabilitation program while the country is in lockdown, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the lockdown presenting challenges he’s making the most of his situation and can already see progress, as he told the Official Hearts Website in this exclusive Q&A.
John, how are you as things stand?
I’m feeling good. I’m slowly getting the strength back in my calf. You lose all your calf after an Achilles operation because basically you need to reattach your Achilles back to your calf.
I was in a cast for two weeks and a boot for four weeks, and you calf has practically worn away during that time. It’s just a case of building my calf back up and trying to get the strength and the spring back in my Achilles.
It must have been a relief to get mobility back in your leg once the cast and boot were off?
It was good to get the cast and boot off but I’ve had the injury before so I knew what to expect. I knew the process I was going to have to go through but those small hurdles are the best ones to overcome, when you make yourself small goals and you achieve them it’s a good feeling. It gives you a wee boost.
You say you knew what to expect but nobody expected to find ourselves where we are now…how do you go about your rehab when you’re in lockdown?
It’s difficult. You don’t expect anything like this situation to happen but then I never expected to rupture my Achilles again to be honest!
In terms of doing my rehab it is difficult. I’ve built a wee gym and I bought a Wattbike when I did my other ankle so I’ve been able to gym work at home. The bike has come in very handy because I’m now back on it, in fact I was back on it pretty early doors, around three or four weeks after my op.
Fortunately, just before lockdown, in fact the day before, I got my stitches out in Dunfermline and I met Craig Maitland (club physio), who managed to get me a few bits and pieces from Oriam like weights, etc. I’m making the most of it.
In terms of day-to-day I’ve been just going through my rehab program and if I get through them then I tick them off. As the weeks go on the miles on the bike increase, the strength comes back and you can start to see progress. But it’s day to day, one step at a time.
How have you found having to rehab, not just a carbon copy of a previous injury, but away from the club and your teammates?
The week before my operation it was extremely difficult to accept what had happened because of the last year, really. I’d worked so hard to come back from my last ankle injury. I wasn’t 100% when I was playing but I was definitely getting back into the swing of things. Then for that to happen, a freak injury…I didn’t feel anything before the game - nothing in my Achilles whereas the first time I felt slight pain before it happened – but I just stood back and it snapped.
The first week was difficult to get my head around it but as soon as I got the operation it was better. I had something to focus on; recovery, getting the cast off, etc. Just taking each day as it comes.
It was difficult without the boys being around you but it’s a mentality thing. When you’re on your own there are days when you just want to chuck it. You drag yourself onto the bike and you don’t want to do it but those are the good days when you overcome it because you feel better.
There’s not been a day when I’ve chucked it. I’ve been working my backside off. After this injury I said to myself ‘you don’t want to regret anything, give your recovery 100% and what will be will be’.
How does the rehab program look going forward and can you picture yourself back on the pitch?
The next milestone will probably be doing ten single calf raises before I can start running. I can’t do one just now. So that’s a wee while away but it’s only been six weeks since my operation.
Usually they say six months from operation to full fitness so I’ve still go a long time to go. It’ll probably be around another month until I’m running.
I’m aiming to be back for September. That’s about the same as my last injury. I’m actually feeling pretty good about it.
As much as lockdown hasn’t been great it’s been good for me because I’ve got this to focus on. Every day I’m getting up and I’ve got this to focus on.