Don Topley: Extreme highs and lows of professional cricket summed up in Reece’s story

Reece Topley in action for Hampshire before injury struck again. Picture: HAMPSHIRE CC

Reece Topley in action for Hampshire before injury struck again. Picture: HAMPSHIRE CC - Credit: Archant

In his latest column, Don Topley shares the story of his son Reece, a professional cricketer who is battling once more with a serious back injury.

The night before serious back surgery Reece Topley met 140 under 12 cricketers at the Minor Counties

The night before serious back surgery Reece Topley met 140 under 12 cricketers at the Minor Counties Cricket Festival. Picture: BENTLEY PHOTOGRAPHIC - Credit: Archant

The last three weeks illustrate the extreme highs and lows of professional cricket for a 24-year-old cricketer from Suffolk.

After an excellent RL 50 Over white ball campaign with eventual winners, Hampshire, my son Reece was also perfoming well for the England Lions in their Tri-series with India and West Indies ‘A’.

He had just taken 4/16, a career best v West Indies ‘A’, in front of the England selectors. Later that night, Reece was informed he was in line for an England recall.

Potentially. he was to replace the injured Tom Curran in England’s t20 Squad with India and would probably fly up to Manchester to join Eoin Morgan’s team the very next day after the Final Tri-Series fixture with India ‘A’ at the Oval.

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On the morning of the Tri-Series final, Reece informed the physio and bowling coach that “it feels like a bad back day.” Having suffered a number of injuries to the back, it is fair to say Reece knows his back well.

Reece didn’t have his greatest bowling display that day as he felt pain during his four average overs as India ‘A’ showed their class.

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An urgent scan was arranged in London and two hours later it was confirmed that Reece had another stress fracture at L4 – there was to be no England recall.

As a parent it is simply heartbreaking to witness your son go through this, but clearly it must be much worse for Reece himself.

Reece immediately visited non-invasive back specialists and surgeons as he has done previously after now suffering three stress fractures at L4 and two at L3.

Reece Topley in his hospital bed

Reece Topley in his hospital bed - Credit: Archant

The two at L3 have always healed beautifully but the ones at L4 seem to not. The highly regarded medics think that there is some leakage of synovial fluid from the joint below into the fracture of L4 and this fluid prevents good cell/bone regroweth.

The result was Reece endured serious back surgery just ten days ago, with a pin screwed into his joint at L4 to ensure the stress fracture closes up.

Reece spent a few days getting his head around the procedure and importantly planning another strength and conditioning comeback for next winter – both mentally and physically.

Mum Julia accompanied Reece up to the Wellington Hospital - ironically adjacent to Lord’s Cricket Ground - and stayed with him for a couple of days. I stayed behind and managed my annual Minor Counties Cricket Festivals back in Suffolk. That was a bit emotional and strange as I was watching 12-year-olds enjoy playing county cricket, thinking how Reece was one of them some 11 years ago – and now he was under the knife.

I am pleased to report the surgeon seems pleased with his work and commented that with Reece being 6ft 8in, he had “a large back to work with, with much space.”

However upon our initial meeting with the eminent surgeon, he shocked us by confirming that the company that makes the titanium screws went out of business some 18 months ago and all the excess stock has been used up. So the surgeon is using a different screw with less favourable results.

Of the latest six back surgeries to professional bowlers, four have worked quite well, but two didn’t and had to be opened up again. I am not a betting man but I was concerned about those odds!

In his eight years as a professional, I am always the cautious or perhaps realistic, one, as I know the game inside out, having played it professionally.

His mum, Julia, is always extremely positive with her cup not just full, but overflowing. Well, she is his mum!

Nine days on from the operation, Reece is up and about walking gingerly and hopes soon to be allowed into the swimming pool.

There will be no running for some four months, even walk throughs of a bowling action wont happen until around Christmas.

No date has been set for playing potential cricket matches – he will simply take a slow return to the game and when he is right.

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