AUSTIN Healey, a former England rugby player who commentates on the sport for TV, describes coping with constant pain as a result of injuries suffered while competing.
Austin says: “I only resort to medication if I have to, but I have constant pain in one or another area of my body.”
Austin (36), played for Leicester and retired from first-class rugby four years ago because of his injuries.
He explains: “My knee got shot to pieces during a match in 2003, and now constantly dislocates which means I can’t bend my left leg. I also have a sciatic disc problem causing pain in my neck and back.
“Also my shoulder was agonisingly painful last year as I need a new ball joint, but I’m delaying surgery for as long as possible.”
He and his wife Louise have four daughters, Ellie-Mae (8), Daisy (6) and two-year-old twins, Betsy and Bibi-Dee.
“Frankly, I’m just glad I’m mobile enough to be able to pick up my kids and enjoy running around with them. If I’d continued playing any longer I don’t think that would have been possible.”
Although he normally exercises daily to keep himself flexible and reduce back pain, he’s been unable to work out recently because of a bout of shingles.
“It lasted a month and was terribly painful and physically draining. My right arm went completely numb.”
Shingles is caused by the same virus behind chickenpox, and anyone who has previously had chickenpox may develop the condition. It can cause a rash and severe pain.
Austin, who competed in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2008, has business interests and commentates for broadcaster ESPN. During his career he won 51 England caps and two British Lions caps.
He says that, like many top players, he struggled for a while to adjust to life off the pitch.
“Most of us find it hard to stop doing what is the best job in the world, and having to try to find a new role in normal life.
“I found it really challenging, and was massively depressed for the first six months of retirement. It took nearly two years for me to adjust.”
He explains that he sometimes struggles with wellbeing. “I’ve always been really topsy-turvy mood-wise although as I’ve got older I have become more balanced out. I’m just naturally the type of person who is either very up or very down.
“I need to be busy with targets and demands to focus on otherwise I can feel at a low ebb. But a ‘goal’ can just be spending more quality time with the kids. It’s easy to take family life for granted and I consciously try not to do that.”
“I know how lucky I’ve been to achieve two huge life goals, playing for England and having a family. I’ll feel blessed if I achieve a couple more – maybe through charity work.”