Hibs star 'learning to walk again' as she faces two and a half years away from the pitch

From pregnancy to “learning how to walk again”, Rachael Boyle’s footballing return has been nothing but chaotic.
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After spending over 12 months on the sidelines due to pregnancy, Rachael Boyle made her return to the pitch in style as she bagged a brilliant brace against Glasgow Women back in February. It was a dream start with many hoping it was a sign of things to come from the Scottish international. However, in just her very next game, all of this promise came crashing down as an awkward challenge would cause her season to come to an abrupt end thanks to a ACL injury.

“It was my second appearance back,” she told the Edinburgh Evening News. “I had played 35 minutes the week before and I felt great. I wasn’t at full fitness and where I wanted to be but I wanted game time to get back to that level. That’s what the idea of starting against East Fife was for, to get minutes in my legs, progress and go forward ready to compete back at the top level by the time we played Hearts at Tynecastle. That wasn’t the case, I went down. It was one of those injuries that as soon as I went down, I knew what I had done, you are feeling the worst and praying for the best. It wasn’t to be in my circumstances.”

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An ACL injury is one of the worst injuries you can get in football. The tissue helps to connect the thigh bone to the shinbone meaning if it is torn or sprained a player can be out of action for over a year. Footballers such as Boyle will then have the gruelling task of slowly nursing their knee back to full health which even requires ‘learning to walk again’.

Rachael Boyle only made two appearances before picking up her ACL injury.Rachael Boyle only made two appearances before picking up her ACL injury.
Rachael Boyle only made two appearances before picking up her ACL injury.

“I have been around so many girls that have done this injury,” Boyle added. “But I’ve never really known what it takes to be involved in the rehab and the discipline you’ve got to have to stick to doing it. It’s monotonous tasks that you take for granted every day. Just the simple fact of being able to bend your knee, it takes a long time.

“Learning how to walk again, it’s just a slow and monotonous process. It’s vital that you do these steps every single day to give you the best possible chance of getting a full recovery. It’s been really difficult, it’s been hard, but the fact that I can still come into training, be around the group and do my rehab alongside them is good. I wouldn’t wish an injury on anyone else but the fact that there are another few girls in the gym at the same time as me makes it that little bit easier. I’ve got some company in there and I am not just on my own, watching them going out onto the grass pitch. Preseason will be huge in terms of being around the group and lifting the spirits but the minute I can go back outside and be in amongst the group will be a great day.”

Only a couple of months before the 31-year-old’s injury, her husband Martin also got hit with an ACL back in November. The Hibs man missed the World Cup with his native Australia after discovering he had been playing with the injury for virtually all his career at the Edinburgh club. With two of the Boyle family now out, Rachael hopes luck will soon be on their side again.

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“We are in it together but at the same time, it is just as awful for both of us,” she explained. “Martin had the disappointment of missing a major tournament. Likewise, I had my own disappointments in that I had already been out for a year prior to that, and I felt that I was just getting back and really looking forward to getting back involved with the girls and back onto the pitch. However, it wasn’t to be. We’ve had our struggles and in a way you can kind of relate to each other but at the same time, it is one of these injuries where you know the work that you have to put in before you can even think about coming back. The sole focus is just on rehab.”

Now the season has ended, many will be hoping to see the Scottish international on the pitch for the upcoming campaign. However, this might be a lot later than many would have hoped. The midfielder still has a long way to go in her rehab programme but if her brief cameo in February tells you anything, when she’s back, the 31-year-old will be back with a bang.

“I am looking to miss the majority of this season coming up,” Boyle stated. “I would like to make it back before the end and play a part in the season. I am not entirely sure of a timescale, it just depends on how quickly my rehab can ramp up once we get back in after the summer and join preseason. We will re-evaluate that and there is no date set yet but I will certainly miss at least the first half of the season.

“I would like to think so [making a scoring return] but I don’t think I will be as lucky next time. If somebody says to me that I score two goals and then go out with an ACL or score non and then keep playing then I know which option I would be picking. My full focus is just on getting fully fit. The last time I can back I never got that far, I was still struggling from coming back after having a baby. It has been a long time since I have been fully fit and flying to the best of my abilities. That’s my main focus right now and then anything after that will take care of itself.”

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