Squash star pain free after nearly 30 years

Anna-Marie Brentall took a ‘no pain, no gain’ attitude towards her favourite sport of Squash when she injured her ankle to ensure that she could continue playing.

After Anna-Marie realised that she could no longer continue to use bandages, painkillers and straps to ease the pain in her ankle, she made a tough decision to have the operation that she desperately needed even though fully aware that she may no longer be able to compete at a high level.

She met with a Consultant Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Surgeon - Mark Herron who runs a clinic at BMI The Priory Hospital in Birmingham. In a relatively short amount of time Anna-Marie was back playing Squash and hitting the dance floor with her friends without experiencing the pain she once endured.

The 47-year-old, who is now a physiotherapist herself in Wolverhampton, was first told after a routine X-ray was carried out that rest would help heal her ‘sprained’ ankle when she initially injured it back in 1984.

She explained: "After two weeks I presumed I needed to ignore the pain and return to sport to 'work it off' as they sometimes say. 

"Gradually the pain eased but I had intermittent flare ups and swellings and until probably about 2005 when I found that taking anti-inflammatory painkillers was the only way I could make it through a full game.

"Last year I realised I was just taking too many painkillers and decided I had to get something done."

An MRI scan revealed there was much more to the injury with marked osteoarthritis of the ankle joint involving osteophytes, sub-contral cysts and severe chondral loss. 

Mr Herron explained: “Anna-Marie was suffering from the effects of longstanding ankle instability complicated by osteoarthritis. Instability is quite a frequent problem after severe sprains, and ankle sprains are probably the most common type of musculoskeletal injury, so the problem is certainly a frequent one. 

“However most patients recover fully with appropriate physiotherapy rehabilitation for several months with no risk of arthritis developing. 

“In Anna-Marie’s case, treatment involved a minimally invasive operation to the ankle known as an arthroscopy (during which the painful joint is cleaned up) coupled with a reconstruction of the damaged ligaments using her own tissue.

“As small and superficial incisions are used the levels of post-operative pain are usually minor and short lived only. The combination of procedures means a small cast is required for four weeks whilst the ligaments heal and is followed by a course of rehabilitation.

“Success rates are easily over 90% for non-arthritic joints with this problem and one can expect to return to some light sport by three months, usually, and ultimately, unrestricted. There are also some patients with symptoms of instability who require only the arthroscopy to allow a pain-free return to stable function. If this is the case then the recovery is more rapid again with immediate weight bearing allowed and a likelihood of return to sport by six weeks or so.

“My advice after an ankle sprain would be to seek physiotherapy assistance early. Full recovery should be the norm and occur by ten to twelve weeks or so. If this doesn't happen an MRI and medical review is needed.” 

Anna-Marie, an achieved Staffordshire squash player said: Before the operation the things I loved, like squash and dancing, were no longer fun. I would be worried about socialising, shopping and all normal activities due to the pain and lack of balance, but now it's brilliant to be back doing these things again.

"I can't thank Mr Herron enough for what he's done, I really do think that if it hadn't been for him I would have been forced to give up squash and look for a much more gentle hobby at the very least."

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Squash star pain free after nearly 30 years