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Comeback Kid: Young Harrier Stubbs Out Serious Injury

Josh Stubbs is an 18-year-old middle distance athlete for Clonliffe Harriers A.C. who has faced some harrowing injuries in his short time in the sport. He has documented his story for us as he looks forward to further progress after finishing the 2015 season on a high.

The breakdown

“…I had osteopenia, a thinning of the bones.”

July 26th 2014, my last race for the season, the U18 3000m All Ireland Final in Tullamore. My first All Ireland finals.

I had only taken up running a year before, and the thought I could get a medal in only my first track season was an amazing feeling. My left calf muscle had been sore for the past few weeks, I thought it was just tiredness at the end of the season. But I had received disappointing news when I visited my physical therapist, Vinny Mulvey (Vinny Mulvey Fitness) a couple of days earlier. “It’s a stress injury Josh” he told me, he advised me not to race, but I was determined to run.

How could I miss my first final? It couldn’t be that bad, I felt great.

3rd lap in, I fell to the ground in unbelievable pain, my left fibula had fractured. I phoned Vinny, who referred me to the Sports Surgery Clinic (SSC) in Santry. Three days later I was in an air boot and on crutches.

Colin Griffin at work in the Sport Surgery Clinic

A team was put together to manage my return to fitness, my coach Joe Cooper (Clonliffe Harriers AC) , my consultant Dr Andy Franklin Millar (Director of Rehabilitation and Research, SSC), my performance rehabilitation coach Colin Griffin (Physiotherapy SSC), Larry Brady my strength and fitness trainer (LB Personal Training) and Vinny.

Slowly my leg got better, and in September I returned to light training. However, after a few weeks of light training the soreness in my leg returned. Dr Franklyn Millar fitted me in for an emergency appointment (he feared the worst), and after a second MRI, i received the devastating news that my left tibia had fractured. “How could this be?” I had only done very light training, there had been no stress on my leg. A range of scans and tests were organised.

The diagnosis

The conclusion – I had osteopenia, a thinning of the bones.
More tests were arranged, calcium levels checked, a visit to an Endocrinologist. And worst of all, no training allowed. Nothing. There was a fear any stress on the bones could cause further fractures. I may never run again. I was devastated.

I waited for the Endocrinologist report, was I fixable?

3 long months passed waiting for answers. I missed the running, the freedom, the de-stressing, and the fitness. I found the running focused the pressure of the Leaving Cert, and to not have that release played on me mentally. Finally, in February, Dr Franklyn Millar received news that they could find no deficiencies, no reason for the fractures, no reasons for a possible thinning of the bones.

Right, if all my tests are normal, I’m going to run again.

Now my team really stepped up. The long months of inactivity, and the fractures had caused left leg muscle wastage. My left foot and knee turned in when running, as my left leg was weak. If I returned to running, there was always the chance I could fracture again. It would have to be a slow and managed return. The feeling to run again, even for two minutes though, was fantastic.

Larry and Colin devised a rigorous strength programme for me, to build up the weakened muscles, straighten my foot and knee strike, without stressing the bones. Dr Franklyn Millar provided a training programme, which I checked back with him every couple of weeks to discuss progress and the next step. I visited Larry twice a week, and he worked hard on rebuilding my strength. Vinny kept my tired body working.

The comeback

I had one aim, to make the summer track season. Could I do it?
After a near 7 month layoff , it was going to be a tall order.
As I got stronger from my workouts with Larry (with input from Colin), my left foot strike got straighter, and the muscles stronger. By May I was running three days a week with my coach, although not on the same programme as my Clonliffe team mates. Joe suggested I enter the Clonliffe 2 mile, and then we could see how I was progressing.

I lined up nervously on the start line on the 14th May, my first race for 10 months. I was 10th over the line, but the first Junior home! My time was 23 seconds slower than last year, but I was elated.

Josh (right) lines up alongside double European medalist Mark English.

Josh (right) lines up alongside double European medalist Mark English.

The track season in June came a little early for me, and I dropped down to the shorter distances as I had no race stamina. I was still only running 5 days a week, on a low milage, and training with Larry once a week.

I had some highs and lows in the few races I did, but I was determined to finish the track season with a PB.

On the 8th of August at the Morton Stadium, I lined up on the start line in the 800 meter Senior Track and Field Championship Heat 1 alongside none other than Mark English. Unbelievable.

I could not have made that start line if it hadn’t been for all the help, support and expertise I had received from my team during those long hard months. I still wasn’t fully race fit, as you can’t make up for the 7 months in such a short time, but they had done an amazing job on getting me back to racing.


I finished 5th, and ran 1.59.57, a new PB, I had broken 2 minutes. For me, that was as good as winning.

The Future

Thank you Larry, Dr Franklyn Millar, Colin, Vinny and Joe for the support and making it possible. Bring on the winter season, as UL beckons and a new chapter begins!

By Josh Stubbs for JTG

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Gerard O'Donnell

Gerard O'Donnell

Gerard O'Donnell is an athlete, physical therapist, and MSc student. He is current national 110m hurdles champion and ranks 3rd & 5th on the Irish all-time list for the sprint hurdles events. He is occasionally referred to as GOD, not due to his initials, but because of his heavenly beard, which he has sported since the age of 5.

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