Jacksonville Axemen Rugby League

Axemen Desta Bailey’s Road To Recovery with Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute

Back in May 2021, the Axemen were finally back on the field for the first time since the pandemic started more than a year before. Axemen veteran Desta Bailey was looking forward to getting back to rugby league with his teammates. Unfortunately, a season ending injury led him down a different path.

In the first tackle of the first game of the 9s preseason tournament, Bailey suffered a Tibial Plateau fracture. “I saw their player cutting towards me,” said Bailey, “And as he did, I lowered my shoulder and went to make the tackle. It’s a tackle I’ve made hundreds of times, and nothing seemed off at the time. As I pushed off my back leg, I felt something close to a pop and my leg went weak. I was able to get an arm around the player and finish the tackle but I immediately knew I wasn’t going to be able to run on the leg. I got up and limped off the field. At the time, I had no idea my leg was broken and funny enough, for a while, I thought I would be able to walk it off and play in some of the later games. The Athletic Trainer did some ligament tests and those all seemed fine so I thought I was in the clear. After a few hours, my leg started swelling and we figured out pretty quickly that I wouldn’t be going back in to play that day.”

What happened to Bailey’s knee in fact, would require surgery. A Tibial Plateau fracture is where the large bone in your lower leg breaks inside the knee joint, and can include damage to the cartilage and meniscus in the knee. Usually seen from traumatic incidents such as falls and car accidents, the injury wasn’t what they expected. “The typical knee injuries we see with our players involve ligaments or meniscus tears,” says Mary Slover, the Axemen Head Athletic Trainer. “So after those tests are negative and it’s clearly more than a contusion, we send our players to Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute for x-rays and further evaluation.”

It was a quick transition from fracture to recovery. Bailey saw the team orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Steven Crenshaw on a Thursday and they had him in for surgery the following Tuesday. Part of his bone had shifted and needed to be pulled back into place and screwed down, which required a plate and 5 screws in his leg. “Looking at the x-rays after surgery,” said Bailey, “you can barely tell that there was even a bit of a crack in the bone, let alone a break. It’s impressive to see how Dr. Crenshaw was able to put my leg back together.

Following surgery came his recovery, which was a 9 month process. Bailey had already knew that recovery was the hardest part after having previously undergoing an ACL repair. “It’s really easy to just want to call it a career and enjoy rugby from the stands after a season ending injury,” he said. “I had to get over the mental and physical challenges that come with a season ending injury. For the early portion of my recovery, I wanted nothing more than to be playing with the guys but instead, I was stuck on a couch with my leg elevated and being iced as much as possible. I did what I could to support them once my leg healed a little more but it’s never easy having to be away from the sport and the team. I wasn’t able to start bearing weight for about six weeks which wasn’t until mid summer.”

Through it all though, the medical staff at Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute were great and they were really understanding of what I was going through. I had monthly appointments where they took x-rays to check my progress, test the leg a little, and answer any questions I had. It was nice speaking to doctors who actually understood athletes would be up front with me when discussing my return to the field. They helped me have realistic expectations on when I could return and gave me a recovery timeline that I thought was perfect. Once my knee had enough time to heal I could start physical therapy with Scott Crawley at Focus Physical Therapy. He and his staff were a massive help. Over time, I was able to start running, jumping, lifting weights, and sport specific activities.”

Now that Desta Bailey is back on the Axemen roster for the 2022 season, he is feeling great and happy to be back on the field. With the Naples 9s tournament and two regular season games under his belt, Bailey has completed his recovery. “There has been some soreness and things like that but I’d say that’s to be expected. Dr. Crenshaw is a miracle worker. The support system that we have with the team is amazing- with everyone at Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute, Scott with Focus Physical Therapy, and our team Athletic Trainers, I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I’m excited for the season and I think I’ll be able to contribute plenty to our title run. We have a great group of guys and I’m glad I’ll be able to share the field with them this year.” 

If you’d like to learn more about Jacksonville Orthopedic Specialists or Focus Physical Therapy, check out our Partners tab at www.jaxaxe.com.