ACT Brumbies back Pat McCabe will miss the rest of the season, including his team’s Super Rugby finals campaign, after specialists assessed his neck injury in Sydney on Tuesday.
McCabe says he won’t risk his health and livelihood to make a comeback. But while it’s his second neck injury in just eight months, Wallabies doctor Warren McDonald says it’s not necessarily career threatening.
McCabe will wear a neck brace for the next six weeks after leaving the field in the Wallabies’ first Test loss to the British and Irish Lions last Saturday night.
He broke his neck while playing for the Wallabies on their European spring tour last year.
“It was encouraging to hear the specialists being positive both about the recovery process but also the possibility that I could be able to return to the playing field,” McCabe said
“It is human nature to think the worst, but I’m in good hands medically. We’ll see how the rehabilitation goes and take it from there. I’d obviously like to get back into it, but I’ll be taking no chances with my health either.
“Hopefully things will go to plan, I’m pretty confident they will. I think I’ve got plenty of games left in me.
“For now, I’ll be concentrating on getting the recovery right while supporting both the Wallabies and Brumbies as much as I can.”
The 25-year-old spent three months in a neck brace and contemplated retiring because of the seriousness of the problem and the risk involved in a comeback.
His year has been riddled by injuries. In his first game back from the broken neck, he tore his hamstring. It delayed his Super Rugby return by an extra month and then in May, he injured his knee.
Despite limited game time, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans backed McCabe’s ability and picked him in the he Test squad after just eight games this year.
But in the second half of the 23-21 loss to the Lions in Brisbane, McCabe went down in pain and has sustained a recurrence of the original fracture. Wallabies doctors said McCabe could make a comeback.
“It’s unfortunate that having completed the healing process from last year’s injury, that it has happened again,” Wallabies doctor Warren McDonald says.
“But there are a wide course of options open to Pat, which will be considered once the rehabilitation has been completed.
“The fracture that has partially opened up is expected to repair itself and strengthen.
“This does not mean that Pat will not be able to return to the rugby field and be able to feel comfortable taking contact.
“The specialist advice is that a return is viable pending the full recovery and strengthening of the neck.
“Only time can do that, but we will be monitoring it closely throughout the healing process.
“There is certainly no way that Pat will be returning to the game without a thorough assessment process to ensure he can have full confidence in the bone that has fractured.”
The initial stage of the rehabilitation will involve McCabe again donning a neck brace for a minimum of six weeks, stabilising the injury, before further assessment is made.