It’s almost 18 months since Ellis Jenkins played a competitive game of rugby but as his rehab continues, the Wales flanker is making the most of the small milestones.
While playing against South Africa in November 2018, Jenkins tore his ACL, his MCL and sustained severe damage to the tendons in his left knee – all at the end of man-of-the-match performance.
It was just an 11th international cap for the back-rower – who captained Wales for the first time, again against the Springboks, earlier that summer – and since then it has been a long and winding road to recovery.
Setbacks during rehabilitation meant that mooted return dates of last year’s World Cup, December 2019 and March 2020 all passed but the Cardiff Blues man remains positive and has learned to listen to his body.
“You have to celebrate the little victories. It is easy to watch a game and think I’d love to be back out there,” Jenkins told the ION Strength & Conditioning podcast.
“What I’ve done is take videos or photos to see the progress I’m making. It’s very easy to compare yourself to pre-injury or pre-set back standards – in reality, you have to build yourself back up to those standards.
“You may be making great progress, but if you are comparing yourself to where you were before the injury it is always going to put a negative slant on where you are at. Keeping things in perspective has helped me a lot.
“There have been some good days and some not so good. I’m very lucky that I’ve got some good people helping me both with the Blues and Wales.
“I don’t think I really appreciated how bad my injury was until later. There is a fine line between letting your body heal and pushing it to progress and adapt.
“I got it wrong a couple of times just from trying to push it too hard and putting myself back a week or two.”
His recovery has included a trip to Philadelphia to see world-renowned sports injury specialist Bill Knowles – who has helped the likes of Andy Murray, Tiger Woods and Jonny Wilkinson.
During lockdown, Jenkins has been working hard on the Wattbike, using weights in his garden and maintaining his general rehab work.
The 27-year-old has always enjoyed training but his recovery also includes a more severe daily task.
“Every day starts with a freezing cold shower, which helps me to wake up. It helps if the weather is nice, but it’s not so nice or as much fun on a rainy November morning,” added Jenkins.
“I’m unable, or not allowed, to run at the moment, so I’ve been hammering the Wattbike.
“We’re used to being very structured in our day and I’m trying to keep that as much as I can in my routine and training. My rehab is still my priority at the moment.
“One day I concentrate on my rehab, the next day I do a Wattbike session and on the third day I focus on my upper body. Then I repeat that routine as often as I can.
“I’ve always been big on training and it’s keeping me sane at the moment. I’m lucky that I have a small garden with a decent set-up and it’s a bit of a sun trap as well, so I’ve been spending as much time as I can in there.”