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The Long Read | Jordan Obita, the road to recovery

The road to recovery is not over… yet.

2 August 2019

“When I went down, I just heard a pop.”

Late on in the Royals’ home match against Hull City on September 23rd, 2017, that’s when Jordan Obita’s world changed.

Having only just returned from an ankle problem that had kept him out of the first six weeks of the 2017-18 campaign, he was stretchered off suffering a damaging knee injury that has kept him out of competitive action ever since.

Having had such a long lay-off, which has now stretched to 22 months with seemingly no end in sight at times, even the ever-positive Obita admitted he wondered if he would ever be able to pull on the blue and white of Reading again.

Through the tough times, though, his third round of knee surgery has enabled him to step up his rehabilitation, and progress further in the recovery process than he has ever been before.

Alongside the talented team of medical staff here at the club helping him through day to day, he says that his family have also held enormous influence in being an effective support network for him off the pitch.

Despite the progress he has made in recent weeks and months, there is still a way to go before we can see our Academy graduate back in hoops – but he is showing improvements as he continued his rehabilitation on the club’s pre-season tour of Spain, and now back in familiar surroundings at Hogwood.

For the first time since suffering that career-changing injury, Obita took stock of his time off the pitch and told the story of his journey up to where he is now in the rehabilitation process, in his own words.

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I went down, and I just heard a pop. I was hoping I didn’t do what happened to me, but I was in a lot of pain and I knew something bad had happened.

I then got a phone call from the physio letting me know the results of the scan, and obviously it was bad news.

It’s not something that any player wants to hear, knowing that they were going to be out for the whole season – not knowing at the time that I was going to be out this long.

I broke down. It was a bad time for me.

I was trying to get the swelling down before the first round of surgery, because you don’t want the knee to go into the surgery big and aggressive.

You’ve got to try and quieten it down as much as you can, because the results after would be better.

I was literally at home for most of the time in the first few weeks, icing the knee and waiting for my surgery.

You don’t feel like you’re a part of the group, your timings are different to the first team when you’re injured.

I was coming to all the games, doing my gym sessions, trying to get outside when I could when I was training. You can feel like you’re unemployed or self-employed, doing it yourself.

I was devastated to be out for the whole season. When you’re out for six weeks, you can try and get back in four or five. But with a nine to twelve-month injury, you’re done.

I had my mind on pre-season for last season but, unfortunately, that didn’t get to happen because my recovery wasn’t as good as what we expected.

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It was unfortunate. I had re-torn some ligaments inside my knee during my rehab. My knee had never really got the swelling down, which meant something was wrong.

Then as everybody knows, I had a second round of surgery to help decrease the swelling in my knee. I was never able to shake it off.

All the way through the rehab, I was feeling good in the gym, coming outside. I was looking good there, running, turning, kicking the ball around. But every time I did it, my knee just blew up in swelling.

Apart from that, it was unfortunate because there was nothing that we, personally, could have done about it.

My family have been massive for me - my parents, my wife, my son – obviously a small part - have helped me with the mental side and they’ve been a massive help for me, especially around the operations when I’ve needed them most.

They were there every day coming to visit me and help me out. There were times when I couldn’t do anything on crutches – I couldn’t even drive. They’ve been massive.

I’ve been out for so long, more than 20 months. But at Christmas last year, that was the one time where I thought I’d never play again.

I was speaking to the doctors and we were planning what was going to happen next. I had to go and see my former surgeon and ask what the plan was going to be, and they recommended another surgery.

Deep down, I knew in my heart that I didn’t want another surgery. I thought I didn’t need it, I was running well, walking well, in the gym I was strong – but it was just the swelling in my knee that wasn’t agreeing with what I was doing.

I had a chat with my family, I had a couple of weeks to decide and I came to the decision to just get it done. I changed my surgeon because I thought that two times with the same surgeon was enough, we didn’t need a third attempt – so I decided to change.

The one meeting I had with the new surgeon was enough to tell me that I was going to play again. I had the surgery and I’m quite a positive person anyway, but I then believed that I’m going to come back.

On the pitch, you can’t change what’s happened in the last two years. I came to every home game to watch and support the boys.

It’s nice to watch, to learn from the whole team, or even in my position.

The last two years have not been good enough – everyone can tell you that. Hopefully in this season coming up, we can improve.

When it comes to my injury, I recently got some good news. I got told that I could get involved in 11 v 11, just some light training, non-contact - but it was nice.

The boys started chanting my name and that was nice from them.

Obviously, I’ve still got a long way to go – still a few more weeks until I can get to training and so far, this is the furthest I’ve been in the recovery process.

I’m in the stage of doing my conditioning, which is where I’ve never been in my whole rehab. It’s going well, and every single week, something new is going to happen and hopefully, this will be a step closer to getting back in the team.

What I’m doing now is massive for me, but putting on the shirt again and hopefully being able to play week in, week out is going to be massive too – like a World Cup Final.

It motivates me so much, because of how hard I’ve worked before, knowing that I’m closer for a return – there’s still a lot of hard work to go, but I’ve always had a target of coming back to football, and that’s my aim to achieve.

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