Bring back the smelly rag and keep on playing

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MODERN football injuries and treatments seem to get more and more complicated with every passing season. LAWRENCE MONEY has carried out a scientific survey of this trend and suggests a cure-all:

LAST WEEKEND Collingwood’s Alex Fasolo limped off the ground in his comeback game, cut down by something Pies coach Bucks called a “syndemosis ankle injury”. Bucks said Fasolo would “have a scan” but feared the syndemosis “could be serious”.

He delivered the verdict as though we all knew what a syndemosis was, but I had to dive for the Sportshounds medical dictionary, an essential tool for all 21st– century footy followers.

“The syndesmosis is a true joint,” said Sportsdic, “with articular cartilage covering the medial aspect of the distal fibula and the lateral aspect of the tibia.” Yeah, right. Whatever that meant, you got the feeling that poor old Al would not be back on the field any time soon.

Alex Fasolo heads to the rooms for treatment after injuring his ankle. pic: Darrian Traynor/AFL Media/Getty Images
Alex Fasolo heads to the rooms for treatment after injuring his ankle. pic: Darrian Traynor/AFL Media/Getty Images

Why have footy injuries become so highfaluting these days? Last weekend Blues skipper Marc Murphy returned after an injury simply referred to in the press as a “plantar fascia issue”. A few years back one of the star recruits for the Dees, big Mitch Clark from Geelong, disappeared for months with a foot injury described as a “lisfranc”. It wasn’t an injured foot, it was a “lisfranc”.

Like the plantar fascia, this damaged whatsit it was thrown in to the mix as though it were as a common as a hammy. “What the hell is a lisfranc?” I asked one of the medical blokes in my Demon squad, a doc nicknamed Coolgardie.

“It occurs when the metatarsal bones are displaced from the tarsus,” he told me, somewhat contemptuously as though surprised I didn’t know.

But I still didn’t know. Huh?

“It comes from the Napoleonic Wars,” Coolgardie explained further,” when a doctor named Jacques Lisfranc de St. Martin diagnosed an injury to a horseman who had fallen, catching his foot in the stirrups.”

A foot in the stirrups? What the hell had big Mitch been doing off the track? A few years later Dane Swan – born centuries after the Napoleonic Wars and with not a hayburner in sight — got lisfrancked so badly it virtually ended his career. That’s when Matthew Richardson had to fess up to a lisfranc in 2000.

What’s going on here? You never heard of blokes like Ron Barassi being lisfrancked or Teddy Whitten nursing a plantar fascia. You never saw Royce Hart sitting on the pine, rubbing his syndemosis.

But I’ll tell you what you did see – scruffy old trainers with smelly old rags hanging out of their back pockets, holding cans of magic spray. Back then, when a player went down on the field, there were no platoons of labelled aides — with “DOCTOR” or “TRAINER” or ‘PHYSIO” on the back of their jackets – rushing out to assist.

No, all you saw was a scruffy trainer in saggy tracky-daks whacking the smelly old rag on whatever had been bruised, battered or busted. No fancy-dancy, bloody motorised stretcher back then. If the smelly rag didn’t have immediate effect the trainer would then resort to the magic spray and, more times than not, the player would stagger to his feet and get back in the game.

The smelly rag was amazing. It was never clear what potions or liniments had been leached into its fibres but the effect was miraculous, so much so that something like a “lisfranc” or a “syndemosis” would have been laughed out of the dressing room.

As a Dees man I’m no fan of the Pies but my suggestion to Alex Fasolo would be to track down an old trainer, having him wrap up the syndemosis in a smelly rag. If there’s still an old can of the magic spray around, give the syndemosis a burst of that too. You’ll be back on the field in days, Al,


Jason Dunstall (2018): Melbourne fans might be re-evaluating what they do in their winter holiday Ed, because if the Dees keep on winning games they might have to stick around and watch this team. Eddie; So they’ll see Neal-Bullen instead of Neal-Bulla.

Bob Skilton (1983): “Phil Krakouer has lengthened his kicking – even his short kicks are long.”

Bill Stephen (1985): “John Rantall is a real abject lesson.”


Author: Lawrence Money

Lawrence Money has twice been named Victoria’s best newspaper columnist by the Melbourne Press Club. He wrote columns for 37 years on the Melbourne Herald, Sunday Age and daily Age — and in Royalauto and Your Sport magazines — before retiring in 2016 after a 50-year career in journalism.
He still treads the speaking circuit, does radio gigs, tweets on @lozzacash and chases a long-gone 13 golf handicap. He clings to the eternal hope that the Melbourne Demons will once again win a flag.



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