How MOTION Helped One Rugby Player Back On His Feet

Martin England playing rugby

By Martin England

“Crouch,” came the call, and sixteen burly men grabbed each other’s jerseys and glared at their opponents.

“Bind,” shouted the referee, and the two groups came together, prompting the referee to call “set.”

The two packs of forwards came together with heavy, painful-sounding grunts and set about readying themselves for the effort just about to come. The half-back slid the ball in the tunnel formed by the two sets of forwards: with shouts of “heave,” both sets of eight 100+ kg men tried to shove their opponents off the ball.

Oh, the life of a forward in a game of rugby!

The forces generated along the spines of these sixteen men were enormous due to the crouching positions of the forwards. Most of us were aware of the situation, as we were accustomed to the consequences of having a bent or incorrectly positioned back, but nothing would stop us from playing and enjoying the game.

Martin England's Rugby TeamThe enjoyment of “bomb-proof” teenagers and twenty-plus young men! I would not have given it up for anything. In fact, I continued playing into my forties – foolhardy, reckless, witless or irresponsible might be applicable adjectives (especially considering what happened as I aged), but…

My rugby career ended abruptly one Tuesday afternoon when serendipitously I was diagnosed with a ruptured vertebral disk in my neck leaving me about 0.5 mm from being a quadriplegic and completely paralyzed from the neck down. Successful fusion surgery cleared the immediate problem. Nothing dramatic occurred for the next 22 years, but in 2016 a disk below the fusion ruptured, necessitating emergency surgery to insert some rods and screws and extend the original fusion to 6 levels. Decades of playing front row forward in rugby finally caught up with me!

A block down the road from my home is MOTION Severna Park where I began my long-term physical therapy (PT) experience. I was prescribed PT for range of motion rehabilitation in my neck and occupational therapy (OT) for left-hand nerve damage and muscle atrophy. Little did I know what was to come!

Martin England
A few days post-surgery and pre-PT

The neck PT very successfully restored my range of motion in every practical sense. I believe I lost a little at the extreme ends of motion, but that has no effect on my daily living. On discharge from neck PT, my body decided to act like an old car: you repair something, and it works so well that other components are unable to handle the new systems and need repair.

As one body system was repaired and PT was successfully completed another needed attention. I went through a series of surgeries, each followed by a PT program. From February 2017 to March 2021, I had ulnar surgery, both left and right carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome, 3-level lumbar spine fusion, a complete repair of both shoulder rotator cuffs, and a total hip replacement.

Despite my surgeons suggesting their in-house physical therapists, and thanks to the experience I had initially with MOTION, I chose MOTION Severna Park for all these surgery follow-ups.

The past 5 years doing PT at Severna Park was as enjoyable – if you can call PT enjoyable – as it could be. I cannot remember a time when I wanted to skip an appointment. The front desk staff were extremely friendly and were very willing “to do what it takes” to accommodate scheduling issues, insurance claims and other administrative details. The professional staff — doctors of PT, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and therapy aides — were all very relaxed and “informal,” making for an excellent environment to learn, practice and complete the various required exercises (which can be very repetitive and boring week after week).

Martin England hiking
Me on a day hike a few weeks post-discharge

This relaxed, compassionate and friendly atmosphere did not belie the professionalism of the staff. In fact, the opposite. The staff are all extremely knowledgeable and dedicated. Sessions often ended without me realizing how much therapy I had accomplished. Notes, progress reports, and my quirks and dislikes were seamlessly passed from one therapist to another, with each therapist varying their program to avoid monotony, but all with the same goal in mind: help me get better as quickly and efficiently as possible.

After being discharged in March 2021 (a month after retiring), I am doing the activities that I had previously planned – birdwatching, hiking, backpacking, mountain bike riding and kayaking.

MOTION has had an immeasurable effect on my life. They guided me from being nearly unable to walk and constantly falling to once again being confident and able to do the outdoor activities that are hugely significant for me.

I cannot say thank you enough to the whole staff at MOTION Severna Park for the patience, perseverance and results over the past 5 years. I believe anybody would be hard-pressed to find a therapy office to top MOTION Severna Park. A wholehearted THANK YOU to everybody for my program, progress, and results.

Thank you,

Martin England