'Aidan O'Shea Put His Paw On My Forehead And Said "Tom, Relax, Don’t Look At It"'

'Aidan O'Shea Put His Paw On My Forehead And Said "Tom, Relax, Don’t Look At It"'

The two and a bit weeks since the horrific injury which he suffered against Galway in the Connacht Championship quarter-final have been tough according to Mayo footballer Tom Parsons.

Speaking to Joe Molloy on Newstalk's Off The Ball on Wednesday evening, Parsons said that he ruptured three of his knee ligaments and tore the fourth. Along with sustaining a dislocated knee during the second half incident, he tore a muscle off a bone and suffered tears to both his calf and hamstring.

"It's a really rare injury, even trying to find case studies is so hard," said the midfielder.

"There might be two or three injuries a year and most of the time they're trauma injuries or bike or car accident injuries. It is difficult that you get the combination of ligaments and the severity of the injury in a game, especially a GAA game.

"I have found some case studies in rugby players that I've talked to. I suppose with the low tackle and the rucks, it might be more common there. Not many athletes get this injury, it is a rare injury but it does happen. I have some case studies of guys who've had the injury and have returned. It gives you great confidence."

Two of the case studies which he cited were those of Connacht rugby player Eoghan Masterson and former Munster centre Jean de Villiers. Parsons said that he has spoken to Masteron - who gave him some "words of wisdom - the backrow returned to action in 12 - 13 months of being injured. De Villiers's recovery took nine to ten months.

Parsons underwent the first of what will be two surgeries at the Santry Sports Clinic on the weekend following the game. He had hoped they could nail all of it in one go but a further operation will be required in three or so months. After that procedure, he should be back on his feet once again.


The 30-year-old's wife is a physiotherapist, a factor which will undoubtedly help in his recovery. Parsons's positive outlook shone through during the interview - you would not back against him returning to the Mayo jersey. "Nobody's saying 'no' at the minute and that's the main thing."

Parsons described the incident in which the injury was sustained as "just another tackle". He commended Aidan O'Shea for making him turn his head from the dislocated knee.

I just remember getting over the young Galway player, Eoghan Kerin, and tackling him. I was leaning over him and he was bent. I remember my leg being in trouble and trying to get that leg out. His weight shifted one way and my weight shifted the other way and I was flat on my back and got a glimpse of what was on the floor - that was tough.

I looked down and absolute credit to my teammate Aidan O'Shea within seconds he had his paw on my forehead and pushed my head back and said, ‘Tom, relax, don’t look at it’. Then I saw him waving at the medical team.

I'm just so blessed because I'm sure these injuries have happened to people in car accidents and bike accidents - a lonely place - I have such a good medical team around me with my team doctor and team physio and my wife and everyone in the hospital who were so professional and had this calming presence.

It's one thing being in pain and having an injury in front of you that looks horrific but if you see panic in people’s eyes and if you see panic in your teammate or your doctor that will just make things a whole lot worse.

Parsons thought he had a good understanding of pain before that game but the 47th minute in Castlebar recalibrated his thinking.

“The pain was something that I just can’t get my head around. We all sit on a physio table, we all get a deep tissue massage but out of ten, what's the pain there? I'd be the first to say, 'Oh, that's an eight or nine'.

"Now I understand what 10 is, this was just excruciating. The pain was short term, it was temporary. Guys had me under general anaesthetic and the leg back in within 90 minutes."


Initially, he did not look at images of the injury - the ones with his lower leg facing in a direction the limb should not turn - but felt he had to for rehab purposes and to get his head around what happened.

"I have looked at the picture - I didn't initially but I needed to look at it to just understand the mechanics of and how it happened so I could understand what ligaments went and why they did.

"I haven't looked at the video and I have no grá to look at the video. I'm not going to look backwards, I'm going to look forwards for here on in. From a pure rehab perspective, I needed to look at what happened."

A major setback to his GAA career it may be, Parsons still views the injury as an opportunity - one which can facilitate personal growth. The hours of rehab will allow time for reading, maybe an online course and chats with friends not involved in GAA.

He believes that what will get him through and out the other side are the thousands of messages he has received expressing support.

"The support and best wishes have been immense. My family is amazing, my friends, my wife, my teammates by my bed - Andy Moran called down yesterday for lunch.

"The whole GAA community, guys who... we've tortured each other on the field - Dublin players, Galway players, hurlers, GAA people dropping me thousands of messages. I'll be honest, I've read every single message. It does help, it gives you this strength and will-power. The support I've received is magical.

"In four months when I need some inspiration to do six hours of rehab work, I know I'm going to go back to those messages. Sometimes, as a player, you go from game to game and no one expresses any appreciation of you. You don't know if people think that you work hard and you're a good guy until maybe you retire of something severe like this happens.

"I will hold it close to my heart and it's given me great encouragement."

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PJ Browne
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