If you’re a rugby fan, you may well have heard of Olly Butterworth, the former Sheffield Eagles player now at York City Knights (at time of writing). After suffering an injury that forced him to sit out the 2022 season, we spoke with him about his recovery from surgery and how NuroKor Lifetech has made a difference.
A winger with a bright future ahead of him in the sport, Olly is also a member of the elite Parachute Regiment and competed internationally as part of Team GB in bobsleigh, which is where he first came across NuroKor.
So we last spoke to you in summer 2021, how have things been for you since then?
Massive change really. Obviously a change of club, which was a big move because the original move up to Sheffield was a bit of a random one in the first place. And then, as you’d expect, to leave the club after about three months of being there was a weird decision to have to make, but the opportunity to play for York was massive, so I had to take it and then unfortunately managed to get injured in my second game. Sadly, it was an injury that's had me out for the whole season, so I’ve been sat on the sidelines all year, pretty much.
One of the worst things is that it was literally from the start to the finish. Everyone has that first really good season, and this season was looking like it would be that for me. After my first game, which went really well and I scored two tries, the next game then ended up with me in hospital. It was a hero to zero sort of moment.
That must have been so painful, but what was it like mentally?
I'd never had a serious injury before, everything up until then had been sort of little niggles, soreness and stuff like that, especially when I was doing bobsleigh, where you get whacked around all the time so you just get used to it. Having a proper injury where it actually stopped you from doing your sport was really weird. Not being able to train, not being able to do your job and just sort of sit there on the physio table every day is just a bit boring for me. It was a big change of pace from what I’m used to.
But it is one of those weird cliche things where they say that it just makes you better. And it is one of those things where I think now I'm seeing the light in the tunnel with getting back to being fully fit. It does sort of wisen you up to certain things, so hopefully it doesn't happen again, but we'll see.
What exactly happened with your injury?
It was from a kickoff actually. Normally as a winger you take it and then you pass it inside to one of your middles. But this time the ball went a little bit further than it normally does. After I caught it, I straightaway felt something awkward, sort of like a pop. I was then tackled and it went back in. Because I'd never had a dislocation or anything before I just thought, “Oh, that was just a bit of a rough tackle.” I carried on for another five or ten minutes and then when I caught the ball again, it just came straight out again and I knew it was properly out then, and I was immediately off to hospital.
So how's the recovery been going and how is NuroKor featuring in that?
I actually had a good chat with Mark [Hopkins, of Hopwoods Pharmacy,] early on about how best to utilise the NuroKor [Lifetech] device and he said that a lot of people have found they've come back months before they were actually expected to come back. And it seems to be ringing true with me as well.
I had my follow-up appointment with my surgeon two weeks ago and at that time I was seven weeks post op and she was looking at my shoulder and she was like, “Oh, you’re three months post op, aren't you?” And I was like, no, I'm seven weeks.
Normally, recovery time from your operation is about four to six months; six months being the worst-case scenario and four months being the best-case scenario. And it’s taken me about three months, so I’m already ahead of that. What we originally planned for was for me to be back at the club for about January time, but I can be back for November as the preseason begins.
It’s great because coming back for the preseason means my body will be in the best shape to actually go and get the season done. If I came straight back from injury, rehab, everything, and onto the playing field, it’s gonna be a shock to my system.
What was the reaction of the people at your club?
They couldn't imagine better news! To actually now be so close to being back onto the field, although it's a year later, it's a good feeling for them as well.
So what's you been doing to keep yourself going during recovery?
I've set up a personal training business, which I guess was one of the positives of being injured: it gave me time to look at other areas and also keep myself busy. It’s something I'm passionate about and it's something I wanted to do for a while. That's been up for the last two or three months now.
That’s 33 Fitness, isn’t it? And how's it been going?
Yeah, really good. It's one of those things where I guess I've never had a normal job in my life - bobsleigh, the Paras, and then rugby, which has always been a little bit obscure. It's quite nice to actually help people from all sorts of areas. I've got clients who want to be athletes, and then I've got clients who are just full time mums who want to get fit, feel confident and things like that. So it's actually quite nice to bring my mentality towards things and help other people actually achieve whatever it is they want to do.
Talking of achievements, you recently won the Infantry Sports Person of the Year 2022 what was that like? And congratulations, of course!
It was a surprise to be honest because obviously I'd been injured for quite some time and normally things like awards and stuff never come your way when you're injured because you’re not playing.
Obviously they missed last year because of COVID, so it was sort of like a roundup of the last two years. I think they saw my transition from bobsleigh for Team GB into professional rugby and knew that, you know, switching sports is quite a difficult thing to do. So they saw that as being a positive and then scoring on both my debuts for both clubs was also something good.
It was a nice boost just to have recognition of stuff you've done, especially where there were people there that had achieved some really good things.
And will you be taking your NuroKor Lifetech devices with you?
I was speaking to Mark about it and I was saying, “Oh, so when I'm all recovered, I can be done with it all.” And he said to me “Why would you? It's something that you can now bring in and why would you not prevent those injuries with prehab?”
It makes you a smarter athlete, you know. I'd rather spend an hour a day working on that than have to spend six months sat on the sidelines. So if it makes me a better athlete, then it's just as valuable as sprinting on a track or being in the gym lifting weights and it brings so many benefits to you as an athlete.
Another thing is that rugby league seasons are long seasons. You go from January to September; that's pretty much nine months of playing 80 minutes of rugby every week and you’re lucky to get away with no real injuries. It's a lot of games and it's a lot of time with your body under stress. The scheduling also means that sometimes you could be playing Monday and then be back on the field by Friday or Saturday, meaning only five days in between, which is not much after you play 80 minutes and it’s then a big ask to recover and then to go onto the training field for the next game.
So every little percent matters. It's not gonna make you immortal, but every little percent is gonna make you a hell of a lot better.
I think that it helps mentally as well. If you know you're fully prepared for everything, it's that one little box that you don't need to worry about. You can tick it off and just know you’ve recovered the best you can and can focus on playing.
Have you considered sharing it with any of your teammates?
Yes, there's, there's a lot of that because obviously a couple of lads end up getting injured throughout the year and stuff. I’ve got a few of the mibody and brought some into training and some of the team are interested in using it.
Aside from getting back to playing, what are you looking forward to in the coming months?
Yeah, obviously playing is the big one. Apart from that, the biggest thing for me is just walking into the gym and just being able to train how I used to train. I love training and pushing myself, I wanna be throwing weight and doing all that stuff, which is what I've done for years. Just going back to normality and just being myself again - I can’t wait.
Our thanks to Olly for talking to us about his experiences and we’re sure that his next season will be a successful one! If you’d like to stay up to date with what Olly’s doing, you can follow him on Instagram or his website.