road to recovery 'My mum was blending chicken breasts and spuds and carrots for me to eat through a straw' - Garry Ringrose
If one broken jaw was bad luck, then two in less than two months was just plain cruel.
Garry Ringrose had just about gotten used to eating solid food once again before he picked up another nasty bang in his face during the first game on his return.
That the freak injury occurred a week before Christmas meant there was no festive dinner with all the trimmings as he was forced to return to the grim prospect of eating blended food through a straw.
When it was all eventually behind him and his jaw healed, Ringrose did at least treat himself to a McDonald's, a welcome alternative to downing pureed chicken breasts.
It has been a tough few months on the injury front for Ringrose who, after missing most of the Six Nations due to a broken thumb, later found himself facing another spell on the sidelines when he caught an Italian boot flush into his jaw as he attempted to block a kick.
A metal plate and a few screws later, the centre was back in action, only for his luckless spell to continue as he clashed heads with Leinster team-mate Jimmy O'Brien.
The forceful collision narrowly avoided making direct contact with the previously broken jaw, as the implants held firm, but the impact reverberated through his face and caused a fracture in his other jaw.
"Thankfully there was no displacement," Ringrose explains. "It was just a matter of letting the bone heal, which was a big bonus.
"It obviously meant the injury was a lot shorter and I didn't have to go through an operation or anything. It was just unlucky, but thankfully it wasn't as bad as the previous one.
"I hit the side of the previous fracture. Because there are screws and a plate in there, they did their job and held up strongly, but then the other side of the jaw cracked. Apparently it isn't uncommon to get a knock on one side and, whatever the force, (it) gets transferred through the jaw bone (and) the other side can crack. That's pretty much what happened."
Ringrose immediately knew he had done significant damage and was facing the prospect of having to return to eating through a straw again.
"I had a prescription for these supplement drinks that are higher in calorie content than protein shakes," he says. "Obviously protein shakes have loads of protein, but it was calories that were the big thing for me - just trying to keep them up.
"My mum was blending chicken breasts and spuds and carrots for me to eat through a straw. A lot of soup. I was able to get some really well done porridge in. Towards the latter end, it was some scrambled egg and stuff like that.
"I had to try and get inventive, but the first couple of weeks of adjustment was the tricky part for the first injury, but this time around, unfortunately and fortunately I had the tools to be able to tackle it. So, in terms of weight and anything from the physical perspective, it was a non-issue.
"Certainly after the first one I had a McDonald's, that was pretty high on the craving list, pizza as well, but then also trying to minimise eating those junk foods to get back training and playing.
"I am back on solid foods now for the last week or two which is another big step. I have been reintroduced to training this week. I have to hit a few markers from the contact perspective. So, it's going along nicely."
Amid the setbacks, Ringrose enjoyed an excellent season, which saw him pick up the 2020 Guinness Rugby Writers of Ireland Player of the Year award.
The 25-year-old is well on the comeback trail now and is sure his jaws will stand up to the physicality that awaits upon his return.
"Players go through their whole careers without ever having a jaw issue. I've just been unlucky to have one and then do the same thing the first game back.
"Hopefully that's all my bad luck used up and I'll be good to go in terms of it being healed,
"I wouldn't be let back out until it was medically clear. Once that's the case, from my confidence perspective, it's fine.
"It's just unlucky. I could go out and do any injury really when it's a broken bone or something like that, it was just a matter of bad luck.
"I won't think about it, just hopefully I can get back out playing as soon as I can. Certainly what has been introduced at the start of this week, it feels OK and there are no issues, confidence-wise, about how it feels.
"Probably as a consequence of not having an operation, it feels good, so that's positive."
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