Written by John Davidson
Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic is one of the most exciting and talented players in the world of rugby league.
At 23 he averages nearly a try every second game in the NRL, has already won two State of Origin series with NSW and earned four caps for the Kangaroos. He is a bona-fide NRL star.
But injury issues have plagued him throughout his short career. Back in 2015 ‘Tommy Turbo’ sensationally scored two tries on debut. But in just his second game the fullback was injured with a high ankle sprain, it was a pattern we would see again.
In five years in first grade Trbojevic has scored 48 tries in 95 games. Out of a possible 120 matches he could have played in, he has already missed more than a full season through injury. That is worrying.
At 194cm and 102 kilograms the custodian is long-limbed, quick and agile. He is now six kilos heavier than when he debuted, and there is some debate he is two heavy at his current playing weight.
Like all great fullbacks, he plays without fear and puts his body on the line. But that can come at a cost.
In particular Trbojevic seems to have a weakness in his hamstrings. In June he suffered his third hamstring tear in just 16 months, despite pre-season testing showing the healthiness of the muscle.
According to physiotherapist and injury analyst Brien Seeney, better known by the Twitter handle @nrlphysio, hamstring injuries are common in our sport but the Manly flyer is an interesting case.
“Overall hamstring injuries have the highest recurrence rate of all muscle strains, anywhere up to 30%, so the three strains in two seasons we have seen from Trbojevic is quite common,” Seeny told Everything Rugby League.
“However, Trbojevic is an interesting case because of the uncommon way in which he has suffered his hamstring strains. Usually, these injuries are associated with straight line top end sprinting, whereas Tom’s have all been suffered when changing direction off his left foot.
“Because the mechanism of injury, or the way he has injured the hamstring, has been so similar each time the way he’s performing a left foot step may have to be explored.
“This brings into consideration biomechanical analysis that can be completed to see if something can be done to take pressure off the hamstring when Trbojevic performs a left foot step.
“It was reported that the week before Trbojevic suffered his latest hamstring injury he tested the strongest he ever has in all the relevant hamstring strength tests.
“The fact he tested so well so close to the injury, and especially considering the uncommon way in which is occurred, starts to bring in considerations other than isolated hamstring strength.
“During a stepping movement an athlete needs support from their trunk and hips to make sure there’s not adverse pressures being placed on the hamstring, so a weakness in these areas could be contributing.”
Trbojevic’s fitness is intrinsically tied to the Sea Eagles’ success on the field. Their win rate without him on the field is meagre.
Understandably, the club and its fans are worried about the fullback’s short-term and long-term future. Too many promising rugby league players have had their careers curtailed over the years through injury.
However, Seeney believes Trbojevic’s issues can be solved.
“Definitely [they’re] something that can be fixed,” he said.
“Whilst hamstring injuries do have a high recurrence rate, for professional athletes in the care of the best medical staff and physical performance teams around the mid to long-term success rate is quite good in these cases.”