Tom Curry has revealed details of the ‘major’ hip injury that forced the Sale and England flanker to undergo lengthy surgery to save his career after turning down the option to have a metal hip inserted similar to tennis great Andy Murray.
Curry is working his way back to full fitness after a six-hour operation, but currently has no scheduled date to return to the field, having not played since England’s bronze final at the Rugby World Cup before his surgery end of November.
Curry has described for the first time the devastating extent of an injury that required him to relearn how to walk and run, noting that his playing time had gradually diminished during the end of the World Cup, when he played just 49 minutes against Argentina and came to realize that surgery was required.
“We thought it was tight hip flexors, but the time to play the games was getting shorter and shorter,” Curry said in an interview with Sharks TV, Sale’s in-house media outlet, to be released Tuesday.
“I came back and tried to play for Sale but it didn’t really work out so we had it scanned and found there was an arthritic change in the hip; labrum and cartilage tears. The radiologist’s report was a long list, a bit of a car crash. But the surgeon went in and was very happy when we came out, which gave me a lot of confidence.”
Curry’s surgery involved reshaping the head of the femur, fixing the labral tears and sewing them shut, before adding some synthetic cartilage and covering it with stem cells. The extensive surgery was Curry’s preference out of three possible options.
“One was to leave it; that wouldn’t happen the way I walked and ran. Two were [the surgery], and then three it was resurfacing where they put the metal in. I wasn’t ready for that yet, I wanted to keep my hip. The operation was the best option of the three.”
Murray was 31 when he opted to undergo hip surgery in 2018 after suffering from pain in his joint for several years. Curry, who won his 50th cap for England in their final World Cup match last November and has made three Test appearances for the British and Irish Lions, is still just 25.
After living downstairs with his parents for the first two weeks after his surgery while he recovered, Curry has since dived enthusiastically into this rehabilitation.
“[The medical staff] wanted me on my bike the day after the operation. After two to three weeks I could carefully start rehabilitation, during which I released the hip. Honestly, you felt it right away. As soon as I could move it to the side, my hip just kept going. It was a refreshing feeling.
“After the scan, the first weeks were difficult because it was just accepting. There were many unknowns. You’re a little helpless. You have all this information and you just sit there and wait. Once the surgery was complete, I flew. You can start to get better and feel better.
‘It’s about almost teaching yourself to walk again’
Despite these positive developments, Curry added that the reason no deadline was set for his return was so he wouldn’t put added pressure on an already complicated recovery process, which includes learning to walk and run again.
“It’s been pretty relaxed,” he says. “As far as my return to playing, I still don’t really know. It’s day to day. If you take a step and your hip doesn’t feel right, your mood will deteriorate. If you do that and your hip feels good, your mood will increase.
“So it’s about getting rid of all that stuff and keeping it as simple as possible.
“The most important thing is to get the running technique going again. We’ve focused on the strength of the muscle, but now it’s about being able to use it within range. We’ve done stretches, but it’s about almost teaching yourself to run again – and even teaching yourself to walk again. It just gets better every week.”
That has meant Curry has been a spectator at home as England begin their new World Cup cycle, with the former England captain understandably annoyed at not being able to help his country in the Six Nations.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but it gives you an edge when you go to your next training session, you get a jump in the step. You have something you want to go for and when you look at England it gives you the drive to keep going and work a little harder.
While a return for Curry still seems a long way off, especially next season rather than this season, the positive news of his continued progress should be a boost for both Sale and England supporters despite such a major operation.
Intensity and playtime have taken their toll on ‘Kamikaze Kid’
By Ben Coles
A few years ago, an English colleague of Tom Curry wondered whether the flanker could maintain his intensity without having to retire before the age of 30.
Separately, then-England coach Eddie Jones noted at the start of the 2019 Rugby World Cup that ‘Kamikaze Kid’ flankers Carry and Sam Underhill were “just ripping. They have no care for their bodies and they are at the forefront of our defensive efforts.”
With that in mind, listening to Curry talk about when he might return to the court, currently an unknown date in the future, might elicit two reactions.
First, that his caution regarding his long-term recovery from such a major operation on his hip seems eminently sensible. It’s a mature approach that should come as no surprise, coming from a player who has achieved so much at an incredibly young age, captaining England and serving as vice-captain while winning half a century of caps for his country and a further three for his country. the British and Irish Lions against South Africa.
There is also a sense of shock that a 25-year-old athlete, about to enter his prime as a top rugby player, has to relearn how to even move his body again.
Curry has always been a great jackaller and ruthless tackler, but as the Rugby World Cup progressed, his minutes on the field decreased, bringing him to a major crossroads in his career.
Since his Test debut during the 2017 summer tour to Argentina, only six of Curry’s teammates have played more minutes for England (in order): Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Jonny May, Elliot Daly, Jamie George and Henry Slade.
It has been less than 18 months since Curry spoke about his mother, who raised concerns about whether blackmailing in rugby was safe.
“It’s rugby and you can’t change it – that’s the sport we love. The only complicated part is when people start rolling in and moving around,” Curry said somewhat ominously at the time.
Not only for his own safety, but also for that of his twin brother Ben, who injured his hamstring after being the victim of a ‘crocodile roll’ during a ruck last May – where a jackalling player is essentially rolled to the side by a clearout – which ruled him out of the Gallagher Premiership final for sale.
It remains an area that needs to be addressed and the severity of Tom’s injury should set alarm bells ringing.
The two Currys will always be compared as they are twins playing in the back row, with Ben playing in more games (154 vs. 146) but Tom playing more minutes (9,112 vs. 8,715).
Tom has of course played many more Test matches, where the level of physicality is notoriously stricter than in the club game.