By DAVID HURST Last updated at 08:23am on 7th August 2007
As a goalie, I’ve spent most of my life having my head kicked in and throwing myself on the ground. Now I am paying the price. I remember one day the Arsenal manager asked me if I knew how many times I’d hit the ground that day. I didn’t. He said it had been at least 200.
As a result of my job, I’ve suffered countless playing injuries – including a broken arm, wrist, ribs, fingers on both hands, a chipped shoulder, numerous cuts and concussions – and my joints have worn out. Both my hips have packed in and I’ll soon need a new left knee.
The osteoarthritis problems really started during the 1972 FA Cup semi-final against Stoke, when I badly injured my knee after making a save.
I snapped the cartilage and it was incredibly painful. I tried to stay on the pitch as we were 20 minutes away from winning a place in the FA Cup final, but after ten minutes I had to be helped off.
The knee never fully recovered its flexibility. It was the leg that I used to leap up from or put all my body weight on when I kicked a ball, so in 1974, I had to retire from playing after 12 years as a professional.
I was only 33, which is young for a goalkeeper to be put out to pasture.
…But it was only when I was being kept awake at night with the pain that I decided it was time to do something. After putting up with the pain for a decade, in 1999 I went to see top orthopaedic surgeon Tim Briggs at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, Middlesex.
After I was X-rayed, he explained that I had osteoarthritis – a disease where the cartilage that cushions the joints wears away. As a result, I had bone grinding on bone, hence the pain.
Mr. Briggs said my right hip needed replacing, and that I’d also need a new left hip at some point. Apparently, my sporting career was partly to blame… … have to say, my own experience pales into insignificance compared with what Anna went through. I had my first hip replaced in May 1999 at the end of the football season and recovered fairly well.
The second one, my left, virtually collapsed when I was training a couple of years later – I fell because it just stopped moving.
There was no way I could carry on with the coaching because I could barely walk, let alone jog. I was in so much pain that the operation for the new left hip, booked for three months ahead, had to be brought forward.
When Tim Briggs was choosing the type of replacement hips that would suit me, he said he would give me hips like a body-builder or rugby player – which are stronger than normal hip replacements – because I’m a physical person.
He suggested I have a joint made with a ceramic head, as this type lasts longer and is more hard-wearing than the usual polythene socket head and titanium alloy of the shaft.
Some hip replacements use a type of “plastic” cement to bond the prosthesis to the bone. The problem with the cemented hips is that, over time, the connection between the cement and bone tends to break down, the bone begins to dissolve and the prosthesis starts to wiggle. When this happens, further surgery is needed to repair it – an operation that is more tricky than the first.
The other, noncement procedure, which is what I had, encourages new bone to grow in the space between the prosthesis and the hip socket. Although this is technically more demanding for the surgeon, as he or she has to shape the bone to fit the prosthesis, the results are longer-lasting.
The downside is that it takes a considerable time – up to 12 weeks – for the new bone to grow, and the procedure is more expensive.
On both occasions, it took about three days for the worst postoperative pain to subside, but the treatment and back-up I received from the hospital were fantastic.
The surgeon said the first replacement was more difficult because that had been my jumping-off foot and so was more damaged due to the extra weight I’d repeatedly put on it.
But after that first operation I was walking without sticks in seven weeks. And I started coaching again in August of 1999, at the start of the new season.
When Tim Briggs saw a photo of me kicking a football just a few months after the operation, he went mad, as I was supposed to take it easy while the new hip settled in. But I carried on coaching and all seemed well.
Recovery from the second hip operation was quicker. I was playing golf five weeks later. I still play golf and cycle a lot along the south coast. I’m pretty fit.
The relief after getting my hips replaced was extraordinary. For one thing, I sleep better.
My problem now is my left knee. It looks completely different to my right one – it’s turning inwards, pulling the muscles with it. I’ve been told I’ll need an operation on that knee at some point, although it’s not clear when.
Meanwhile, Megs and I continue our work with the Foundation. It is unique in that it’s the only charity dedicated to helping some of the 12,500 younger people diagnosed every year with a life-threatening illness. I’m just really pleased I can get up and about to help the charity make a difference.