Ben Whitehead: His road to recovery following ACL injury

PUBLISHED: 15:30 21 June 2020

Ben Whitehead in action for Weston against Newport County.    Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Ben Whitehead in action for Weston against Newport County. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

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Ben Whitehead has described the moment his ‘season was over’ after injuring his anterior cruciate ligament during Weston’s 2-0 victory at Truro City early in the 2019-20 campaign.

Ben Whitehead nets Weston a 93rd minute equaliser against Hendon at The Optima Stadium.    Picture: MARK ATHERTONBen Whitehead nets Weston a 93rd minute equaliser against Hendon at The Optima Stadium. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Whitehead made a promising start to his career with The Seagulls following his signing from Cirencester Town, where he finished with back-to-back Southern League South Golden Boots, as the forward found the net twice in his first six appearances.

On his debut, Whitehead scored a stoppage-time equaliser against Hendon whch was then followed up with the winner over Hayes & Yeading, where his teammate Scott Laird said his finish “wouldn’t look out of place in the Premier League”.

But delight turned to devastation two games later on August 26 at Truro, as Weston, leading 2-0 through first-half goals through Nick McCootie and an own goal from Jamie Richards, took off Whithead in the 69th minute at Treyew Road as a precaution, before scans later revealed he had done his ACL.

“I had just come to get a throw-in,” Whitehead told the club’s website.

“I took a touch to set myself, the defender came in behind me to try and put pressure on me, I went to turn, my left foot planted and as I’ve gone to turn, I heard a crack and a pop.

Ben Whitehead putting Clevedon Town under pressure. Picture: Mark AthertonBen Whitehead putting Clevedon Town under pressure. Picture: Mark Atherton

“I thought ‘that this could be bad’. The physio Becca came over, had a look to see if I could walk and if I was going to play on.

“I went straight to the gaffer on the sidelines, he said to not risk it because we had played on the Saturday and obviously this was Bank Holiday Monday.

“So I came off to not risk it because you don’t really know until you’ve had a scan.

“I felt fine and wasn’t really having any pain, there was about 20 minutes left in the game.

“When we got back into the changing room, my knee started swelling up.

“On the bus on the way home, that’s when I started to think it could be bad. Becca checked when we got back to the club in Weston and she said ‘there’s a possibility you’ve done your ACL’.

“I got the scan on the Thursday, then it was the following Tuesday where I got the news that I’d fully ruptured my ACL and that I was going to need an operation.

“My season was over, I had to prepare for an operation and rehab and that was that.”

After having his operation in October, Whitehead began the long and hard process to recovery.

He added: “I started off going to the gym and going back to the hospital once a week for physio and they made a programme to push you on, giving you ideas of what stages you’re at.

“I saw another physio up there, to walk again and things like that, and then just after Christmas, I started coming back into the club to see Becca and be around the lads again.

“The main things I’ve been doing is cycling and gym work, trying to strengthen my muscles because you lose a lot of muscle mass straight away.

“I’ve just been trying to strengthen that again and everything else in your knee just to make sure that you’re right and ready when you come back to play.”

With dates for the 2020-21 campaign yet to be announced, due to the coronavirus pandemic, Whitehead admits the injury has had a ‘tough’ impact on him mentally.

But help from Laird and Scott Bartlett behind the scenes has been inspirational in helping him get ready for the year ahead.

“The manager and Lairdy were good, they said to me that I could do a lot of things from home,” he added. “There’s a gym just round the corner where I have a membership so I could get there and do rehab.

“I wasn’t watching too much football, so it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been if I was in watching football all the time tearing my hair out.

“It has been difficult, but one of the worst things could be when we get back playing, hoping that the knee’s all okay and hoping I can get through next season. It’s been hard, because it’s something I haven’t experienced but I’ll be better for it once I get back.”


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