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First team

Cook - The toughest thing I've ever had to deal with

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

As Lewis Cook surveys the motivational quotes on the wall, he will know more than most that the only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.

Cook is three months into his rehabilitation after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee for the second time in his career in March.

He sustained the injury in what appeared to be an innocuous challenge with Greg Cunningham during the second half of the Cherries’ 1-1 draw at Preston.

It condemned him to another painstaking spell on the sidelines, the midfielder having been out for nine months after suffering the same fate in December 2018.

At just 24, Cook has become far too familiar with the surroundings at the medical centre at Vitality Stadium and knows word for word the motivational quotes which adorn the walls.

“There are some good quotes and very relevant to my situation,” Cook told afcb.co.uk. “But I’ve seen them all before so maybe we need to get the decorator up there to change them!”

After all he has been through in the past two-and-a-half years, Cook does well to maintain his sense of humour. Perspective, it seems, is something he will never lose.

“I know how fortunate I am,” he said. “Some people don’t have legs. I’ve got mine and they both work.

“I’m not saying it’s easy and, mentally, it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with.

“Sometimes, I can give the impression I’m positive and it’s easy but it isn’t. All I want to do is play football and I’m just looking to get back on the pitch when I can.”

Recalling the fateful day at Deepdale, Cook said: “Leading up to the game, I felt fine and my knee felt normal.

“There was nothing malicious in the challenge. I jumped up and nicked the ball before their player and he kicked one of my legs.

“My leg went in the air so I had to land on the other leg. In my last rehab, I learned to land double legged and to split the load between my knees.

“As I had to land on one leg, it was a nasty landing and my knee went inwards. It was a typical mechanism for an ACL. I heard it crack and knew straight away I had done it.

“Initially, it was painful and I was a bit emotional on the pitch because I knew what I’d done. Junior and Arnie came over to try to help me calm down because I was in a bit of a state.

“Once I’d calmed down and stood up, it felt fine but I knew I had to get off the pitch because I knew what had happened.

“I walked off the pitch and was fine when I got into the changing room. I was squatting, bending, running, jumping and it was all good.

“The physios told me to think positively and to try to think for the best but I told them I knew I’d done it so I had it in my mind that I was injured again. I got over it quite quickly.

“The first time I did it, I couldn’t move my leg for about 10 to 15 seconds and it was exactly the same thing. In the back of my mind, I was hoping it was something else but, deep down, I knew.

“Everything was normal on the way home but once you stop talking to people, it hits you. I knew I was going to have to do it all over again.

“The scan revealed it was just the ACL so I guess that was a positive in one respect because all my other ligaments were fine.”

Following an operation to reconstruct the ligament, Cook embarked on his second lengthy rehab programme and has been delighted with his progress.

He added: “When I did it the first time, I got home after the operation and got a bit upset but my family made sure I kept focused.

“This time, there was one night when I got a bit upset again but that was it. There were no more tears after that. I have just cracked on.

“Having supportive people around you is a massive part of it. But I know my job is being a footballer and I have to put everything into my rehab to make sure I come back fitter and stronger which I will.

“It’s football. We all play at this level, we take the risks. It’s unfortunate but it is what it is. I tried everything I could to stop it last time so I’m just going to have to continue to get better and make sure I’m in a better place than last time.

“My rehab has been amazing and I’ve progressed a lot faster. Hopefully, I’ll be running next week which is crazy compared with last time when it was five months before I ran.

“I’m three months down the line and my knee is feeling really good. I’m doing lots of exercises I didn’t do before and I’m very happy with it.

“The first week after the operation was horrible, a lot worse than last time because of the graph type.

“Three days after the operation, I said once I don’t feel like this and I’m not in as much pain as I am, I’ve got to be happy.

“If ever I’m feeling down, I just have to look back to that time and realise how far I’ve come. That’s a positive for me and something to look back on for some motivation.

“As I’ve been through it before, it’s been a bit easier dealing with it this time. I know if there’s a bit of pain here and there it’s normal.

“The first three months have gone really quickly. It’s been 11 or 12 weeks since my operation but when you say three months it sounds a lot better!

“It’s hard to put a time frame on when I might be back. So far, it’s been plain sailing but I can tell you now it’s not going to be like that always. There are going to be ups and downs.

“They said six to nine months. It definitely won’t be six but I’d like to think it definitely won’t be nine either. It took me nine last time and we were always going to take nine because it was my first time.

“Hopefully, it can be around seven-and-a-half to eight months. I’m going to take the time I need to make sure I’m fully fit. I’m going to take it one step at a time.”

Cook was keen to express his thanks to physios Jonny King, who recently left the club to become head of rehab at Leicester City, and Nick Court.

He said: “Jonny was a massive part of my first rehab and got me back to full fitness. He’s done the first three months this time and the first two months are really difficult because it’s all about preserving the knee and making sure everything is right.

“Nick has come in and is looking after me now and is another great guy. I’m looking forward to continuing the upward progression and getting back on the pitch when the time is right.”

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