With Michael Hurley returning from a ‘minor’ hamstring injury over the weekend, he reflected on how far his body has come in the last few years.
The key defender will suit up for this 150th game on Sunday against the Lions, but he revealed this week that there were times where he struggled to walk.
On the outside, his 2015 season was a career year, but internally he battled through immense pain just to get out on the field from week to week.
While not only dealing with the cloud of the supplements saga looming large, Hurley secretly dealt with a chronic back injury that started in 2012.
The origin of the injury is unknown, but the deterioration began six years ago, and reared its ugly head in 2015 and during his year away from the game in 2016, where the burly big man endured unspeakable pain.
It’s difficult to ascertain what was more incredible. The treatment he went through in order to play, or the consistent level of production Hurley delivered in defence through an indifferent 2015 campaign for the football club.
During some stretches that season, Hurley was unable to train for most of the week due to the toll on his body, and he went to extraordinary lengths to make sure he was capable of playing when the weekend rolled around.
“I remember having a couple of epidurals just to function again,” Hurley said. “I was having injections into my back to take out the swelling so I could move around again. I have a bulged disc in my lower back. If you look at the pictures, it doesn’t look overly bad, but functionally, I used to have spasms regularly.”
Hurley would rely on friends and family to chauffeur him from appointments after epidurals, because he wasn’t allowed to drive. After the injections, he would be forced to rest, often laying on the couch for long periods to allow the medication to take effect.
Throughout that adversity, he somehow managed to play 19 games and was named at centre half back in the All-Australian team, even with his team finishing 15th with just six wins to their name.
Despite missing the entirety of 2016, Hurley’s back issues remained.
“The year off was when it reared its head badly,” Hurley explained. “I was struggling to walk.”
Chronic pain aside, he still managed a trip overseas in the middle of the year with teammates and his partner, and fitted in some training. And plenty of golf.
“We spent a fair bit of time training, there were a few of us who worked together as a group, and outside of that, Michael Hibberd and I spent plenty of time together training ourselves and playing golf. I reckon I averaged three games a week. I wouldn’t recommend it. We were the two most unfit blokes coming back!”
It was also in 2016 where Hurley stumbled across the services of Kieser, who were recommended by his contacts in the physio industry.
Not only does Kieser help to rehabilitate injuries, their machines assist with strengthening the injured muscles.
“The machines I’m using are making it feel more comfortable,” Hurley added. “The ones I have been using are specifically tailored to my lower back and strengthening those muscles that you otherwise wouldn’t use. At training, we do a lot of weights but they’re not as specific as these machines. Since then, I haven’t had many problems. I was in a bad way, so to be pointed in that direction was great for my back.”
It’s difficult to measure just how far Hurley’s back has come since using these service for the last 18 months. Perhaps the only way to assess it is by the level of discomfort, which has markedly improved.
He freely admits to being able to move around at training pain free, and in his return from a year away, he was named an All-Australian for the second time.
“I think 2015 and 2017 were the two best years of my career, but they were slightly different. In 2015 I was more of a lockdown defender, whereas 2017, I was slightly more attacking. It’s hard to compare those two years, but to come back from a year off and to be able to perform that way makes me proud.”
Stay tuned to AFLPlayers.com.au in the coming weeks as Hurley features in a new video series with KIESER.