Kiwi surgeon wires up wounded cricketers
CHRISTCHURCH orthopedic surgeon Grahame Inglis has become the cricketing world’s goto doc when it comes to fixing fast bowlers.
Since 2004 when Inglis’ steady hands helped to extend a broken Shane Bond’s international career by six years, his success rate has been remarkable: Black Caps Matt Henry, Hamish Bennett and Andrew Ellis all returned to international cricket after the operation, and allrounder Corey Anderson was the latest wheeled out of theatre with a smile last month.
Such is Inglis’ reputation that even Cricket Australia bypassed their highly skilled compatriots to send fast bowler James Pattinson to Christchurch in coming weeks.
‘‘We basically repair the fracture and we do it with a minimalistic approach that doesn’t seem to upset the rhythm of these topline fast bowlers,’’ Inglis said.
‘‘The success rate is very good. As far as spinal procedures go it’s at the lower end in terms of technical demands. It’s a relatively straightforward procedure with a predictably good outcome.’’
Inglis, 67, is semi-retired but still works at Burwood Hospital’s renowned spinal unit. He was New Zealand Cricket’s orthopedic surgeon for years before handing the scalpel to Rowan Schouten, who he assisted with Anderson’s surgery and will do the same with Pattinson. It takes between one hour and 90 minutes and is focused on the L5 vertebra where most bowlers’ stress fractures occur.
‘‘We clean out the fracture and harvest bone grafts from the pelvis. Then we use two screws and a bit of titanium cable and perform a tension band-type operation across the arch of L5. It compresses and stabilises the fracture.’’
Inglis adapted the procedure for athletes after a six-month fellowship in the 1980s in Edinburgh, where a surgeon named Jimmy Scott was using wire to repair vertebra, and first operated on javelin throwers, high jumpers and swimmers.
Said Bond, now England’s bowling coach in Australia: ‘‘He’d never done it on a cricketer and he talked to me about not bowling quick again, and I said ‘I don’t have a career anyway, this is the last resort’.
‘‘When I got back to first-class cricket it took me a game and a half before I decided I could really up the intensity and then I knew – I could still bowl as quick as I used to.’’
Shane Bond credits Inglis for saving his career.