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How physiotherapy rescued 2 Indian boxers barely days before CWG | By Subhash Pal

Boxers Rohit Tokas and Mohammed Hussamuddin, who won bronze medals at the recent Commonwealth Games, were in danger of missing out after suffering serious injuries. Till the physiotherapy team won a race against time.

How physiotherapy rescued 2 Indian boxers barely days before CWG | By Subhash Pal

Rohit Tokas (left), Mohammed Hussamuddin (centre), and Subhash Pal (right).


Subhash Pal

Published: 26 Aug 2022 11:55 AM GMT

As the head physio for the Indian Boxing team, I looked after the men's team for the now-concluded Commonwealth Games. Before we packed our bags and made our way to Birmingham, we planned a two-week training camp in Belfast, Northern Ireland. That has been well chronicled, but what not many know is how two of our medallists from CWG 2022 suffered so severe injuries at the camp that it was assumed that they would have to return to India instead of going to Birmingham.

Rohit Tokas and his swollen knee

It was the 14th of July, the day of our first training session. Our strength and conditioning coach wasn't there yet, so the sports scientist was carrying out the session. He (Rohit) was doing explosive jumps with the barbell on his shoulders.

During the second set, fourth round, his left knee just buckled and he fell with the weight on his shoulders. Swelling had already started. The team doctor, after having a look, deemed him unfit. It was agonising for Rohit as his participation at the games was uncertain.

Rohit's left knee buckled to cause the injury

After talks of sending Rohit back to India had started circulating in the back room, I met him. I uttered a few words of motivation and said, "Rohit, if you can just follow my instructions, I can guarantee you that not only will you participate, but also win a medal."

Rohit said he would diligently follow the instructions, so our plan to achieve something impossible was in motion. It was exactly two weeks to the CWG, time too less to overcome such a serious injury. But, we persisted.

A swollen knee, with the calf muscle facing a similar fate, pointed to a ligament injury. Thankfully, I had seen such injuries in the past, but it was very important to keep the athlete motivated. If he was motivated, half my job was done there.

For the first week or so, we did four sessions a day, namely two sessions of soft tissue therapy, one session of stability training, and one for strength training. Moving forward, the schedule consisted of one session each of stability training, strength training, functional training, and soft tissue therapy.

Rohit getting in his recovery hours

On the third day of our training, on the 18th of July, Rohit was able to move his knee by ninety degrees, which was a huge improvement.

Be it travel day or the opening ceremony, we made it to every recovery session without fail. By 24th July, the day on which we were set to travel to Birmingham, Rohit was completely pain-free in his knee. Slowly, we ramped up our sessions and incorporated the skill exercises.

By the 29th, if you were to see Rohit, you wouldn't have pegged him for a boxer who was sustaining an injury for two weeks.

When the doctors and coaches had practically ruled him out of the competition, Rohit and I continued to work hard. Credit must be given to him (Rohit) for the amount of effort he put in, sometimes even at ungodly hours!

A smiling Rohit Tokas (left) with Subhash Pal

After all the work, Rohit, as envisioned, had a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games to show for it all! This story becomes more inspiring after knowing that this was his first major medal in a competition.

Mohammed Hussamuddin and his broken thumb

Another boxer, Mohammed Hussamuddin, who also won the bronze medal at the games, went through a similar trajectory to Rohit. On 2nd June, during the final of the Commonwealth Games trials, Mohammed got his left thumb badly injured against Kavinder Bisht.

The tendon in the boxer's thumb was injured, which prompted the specialist doctor to advise the athlete to keep it in a cast for at least six weeks. It was a simple decision for the boxer: either keep the thumb inside the cast up till it was only a week for the games or simply pull out of the competition.

Subhash Pal (right) with Hussamuddin's (left) medal

The coaches and doctors were considering giving another boxer a ticket to Birmingham, but I assured Mohammed, just like I did with Rohit. From the day he got injured, till the day he won the bronze-medal match, we did sessions together.

I worked on his muscles so that the load from the broken thumb could be lifted just enough for him to fight. From barely being able to wear his glove to landing punches hard enough to earn himself a podium finish, Mohammed surely had an arduous journey to his medal.

Importance of physiotherapy in sports

I would say, in the current scenario when the competitiveness has risen so much, you need to have the best of the team doctors, physios and staff. They are equally important as the coach.

While the coach finishes their session within an hour or two, we work with the players almost all the time. During the CWG, I barely got a couple of hours of sleep every day (laughs). Their injuries, their diet, their recovery- everything is in our hands.

Our role becomes very crucial especially in such injury-riddled situations when we can work with the athletes and help them go back to their fitter selves.

(As told to Rajdeep Saha)

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