Scotland centre Alex Dunbar has hailed the three weeks he spent in the USA working with world-renowned rehabilitation specialist Bill Knowles as he continues to recover well from a long-term knee injury.
And the 25-year-old is confident that he will be able to make it into Vern Cotter’s final squad for the World Cup in September and October if his return to fitness continues to go to plan.
When he was injured on the training field two days before Scotland were due to take on England in the Six Nations in March, those who were watching on feared the worst.
A hospital scan revealed he had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and that he was set to be out for between six and nine months.
An operation followed in London and at the weekend just gone the Glasgow Warriors’ player returned from a spell in Philadelphia where he was working closely with Knowles – a man who has helped the likes of Jonny Wilkinson and Tiger Woods in the past.
“It was a good three weeks. I was doing a lot of reconditioning stuff, getting back into some basic movements and things are progressing along nicely,” Dunbar explained.
“Bill had obviously worked with Jonny Wilkinson, Tiger Woods and lots of skiers in the past, there is quite a long list of sportsmen and women he has helped so I was excited to go over there.
“I wouldn’t say he does anything too different to others, but he is incredibly positive.
“Sometimes you get aches and pains when you are building up the knee again, but within 15 minutes of working with him he is so positive that everything loosens up and you are raring to go.
“He just concentrates on doing things really well and it helped a lot being out there. I got back up to normal running, change of direction stuff and the strength I have built up in my legs over the last three weeks has really helped.
“I feel really ready to do some serious conditioning and make progress pretty quickly now.”
The positivity being shown by Dunbar will be music to the ears of Scotland supporters.
Since the Annan-born player earned his first full cap against Samoa in 2013, he has gone on to become a key man for Scotland, certainly in attack.
And the way he is feeling now is a million miles away from what he was feeling on the day when the injury occurred.
He recounts: “It was the start of the last training session before we flew to Twickenham. We were just warming up, going through a couple of plays and I tried to change direction ever so slightly and I slid to the side and fell to the ground.
“That was it – it was just a weird feeling. My knee gave way to the side and 15 minutes later it was stiff and the other muscles had switched on to compensate. I didn’t know how serious it was as I could walk on it, but very quickly I got an MRI scan and within half an hour I realised I had ruptured my ACL.
“I got the operation the week later and I was quite numb and did not know what to do with myself for the next couple of weeks.
“It was something I have never experienced before. I had never had a long-term injury so it was quite tough to take at the start, but once I could get back in to doing some drills and some basic rehab, getting in the pool and stuff, I felt good.
“It was a case of getting back the range of movement back and slowly building things up. Everything has felt good along the way, I have to keep pushing on and hopefully everything will fall into place.”
Dunbar is now back with the rest of the extended Scotland squad at BT Murrayfield as they continue their summer camp and in a couple of weeks he has another meeting with a specialist in London.
“I am quite confident about making the World Cup, but I still know at the back of my mind that there is a long way to go before I am back fully fit and on the pitch,” he concluded.