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James O'Connor reveals two years of self-medicated painkilling injections to play through ankle injury

The one-time star of Australian rugby has had surgery on his ankle and admits he is back to square one.

James O'Connor

ONE-TIME WALLABY wunderkind James O’Connor has revealed that he injected painkillers into an injured ankle for two seasons and now requires surgery to fix the problem.

Now 27, O’Connor joined English Premiership side Sale Sharks last year from top French club Toulon and says he injured his ankle before the start of the 2016 Top14 season and has been self-medicating so he could play through the pain barrier.

“On the third day of pre-season in 2016, I injured my ankle at Toulon,” O’Connor, who has played just 13 times for Sale this term, wrote on Instagram.

“Since then I’ve been fighting to play for nearly two seasons! It got to the point where I was only training one session a week and injecting it with local anaesthetic just to be able to take the field.”

The former Western Force prodigy said he was motivated by Toulon’s bid to win the French championship, which ended in defeat to Clermont in a pulsating final last June.

“I was so determined to play and win a final with Toulon that I disregarded all the signs and carelessly played on,” he said.

O’Connor, who left Toulon under a cloud following a cocaine bust, disclosed that he had reconstruction surgery on the joint before arriving at Sale for the start of the 2017 season.

Sale Sharks v Toulouse - European Challenge Cup - Pool Two - AJ Bell Stadium Source: Martin Rickett

However the problem persisted for the versatile back once viewed as the future superstar of Australian rugby, earning 44 caps by the age of 23 before various scrapes resulted in him losing his contract with the ARU and heading north.

O’Connor insists that he played with the injured ankle not because of pressure from Toulon or Sale but because he was so desperate to succeed on the pitch.

“I did whatever I could to get onto the field to play… three games on, two weeks off and cortisol to Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections became my routine!” he wrote.


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“This pressure in no way came from the club. I thought I could beat this through force & never actually allowed myself to stop and heal correctly.”

As a result O’Connor says he is back to where he was last year — facing more surgery on the injured joint. Only this time, he says, his club have taken charge of his treatment.

“So now I’m here in the exact same place I was last year, one surgery down with another to go,” he wrote.

“But this time around (the club & I) have taken all the correct measures and discussions with my surgeon, going over all possibilities and put together a great rehab program to get me back for next season faster, stronger and pain free!”

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