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A life of bones, knees and shoulders: No wonder this man is ready for a break of his own

Everyone has a knee story. One orthopaedic specialist above all others has allowed us to watch and enjoy our sports stars for longer, writes Jim Tucker

 

Mar 01, 2024, updated Mar 01, 2024
Peter Myers arrives at the 2013 John Eales Medal at Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre on October 24, 2013 in Sydney.

Peter Myers arrives at the 2013 John Eales Medal at Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre on October 24, 2013 in Sydney.

His artistry has helped Wally Lewis, Tim Horan, John Eales, Michael Voss, Darren Lockyer and Jamie Dwyer earn major trophies and Olympic gold medals yet you’ll never find Peter Myers on any of the team lists beside them.

All those names and many others salute him. For 37 years, Myers has been as integral to Queensland’s sporting landscape as goalposts and the ref’s whistle as the “knee guy.”

More precisely, Myers has been the knee doctor to our sporting elite, one of Queensland’s leading orthopaedic surgeons entrusted with repairing dreams and careers since 1987.

“It’s been a great privilege. I turn 70 this year and it’s time to step back of my own accord,” Myers said.

He’s done so without the fanfare he deserves. He’s stopped operating but he’s still seeing patients for follow-ups, consulting and assisting in surgeries.

He’ll continue teaching. It’s with pride that he knows the baton is being passed on. The surgeon who recently repaired the knee of Matildas ace Sam Kerr was once a trainee beside him.

No social class or occupation is immune from the wonky knee. Ballet dancers, labourers and brawny footballers are struck down. He’s operated on them all. More than 20,000 knee surgeries are performed on Australians every year.

Just about everyone has a knee story or knows someone who does. Basketballers have “jumper’s knee”. breaststrokers have problems peculiar to their stroke in the pool. Gardeners get a sore knee squatting in the backyard. Footballers have the injuries of a contact sport or a sudden, awkward change of direction.

Even the late monarch, Queen Elizabeth, needed an operation, at 76, to tidy up a grumbling knee when twisting the joint while walking on uneven ground.

Only the Queen could turn the knee into a fashion statement. She once had royal fashion hounds in a lather because she appeared outside a London hospital in a woollen trouser suit.

One of sport’s most dreaded phrases is “he’s done his ACL”. With increased prevalence, it is now “she’s done her ACL” with the burgeoning number of players in the women’s footy codes.

Tearing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament is season-ending. Surgery and diligent rehabilitation is a six-month process, give or take, before a player gets back on the field. It might be a year before they are back to their best.

It’s an annual minefield. Just ask poor Dolphins forward Tom Gilbert who tore his ACL in a pre-season NRL game and is gone for 2024.

In the 1970s, you could always tell knee injury victims at a party. The old footy player would hitch up a trouser leg or compare scars with a skiier who’d come a cropper.

The long, twin scars, either side of the kneecap, from the open operation were purple-red and raw for months. They were markings for life.

Myers was at the cutting edge when knee surgeries changed forever. He was the first overseas-trained Queensland orthopedic surgeon to perform knee reconstructions inside the knee joint in the late 1980s and was in the vanguard when arthroscopic or keyhole surgery became the mode in the early 1990s.

Recovering knees certainly looked prettier with only a minor incision as a scope is inserted into the joint to allow the delicate surgery.

Intriguingly. Myers never “did a knee” himself as a player. He was a sniping, niggling first grade halfback for University of Queensland in the mid-1970s when Wallabies Mark Loane, Paddy Batch, Bill Ross, Geoff Shaw, Andy McIntyre and Duncan Hall were regular teammates. He sat on the bench for Queensland a single time in 1977 without getting on the field.

It was his time abroad doing fellowships in Atlanta, Toronto and Edinburgh in 1985-86 which gave him the cutting edge skills to perform open reconstructions inside the knee joint.

Knees cross codes. He was both the orthopaedic specialist for the Brisbane Broncos and Queensland Reds for longer than two playing careers. In 2013, he was honoured with the Joe French Award for Outstanding Contribution To Rugby at the annual John Eales Medal dinner.

In 2016, five Wallabies – Will Genia, Quade Cooper, David Pocock, Stephen Moore and Kane Douglas-ran on for a Test against the All Blacks thanks to the sturdiness of a knee reconstruction performed by Myers in their histories.
Myers has operated on tens of thousands of knees and shoulders but two still stand out for their severity and the springboard that surgery gave them to start the long climb back to the top.

“As far as getting back to the top in their codes, Tim Horan and Andrew Tessman stand out. The surgery is one thing. The average punter might just not have the back up to do what they did to return,” Myers said.

Former Bronco Andrew Tessman had his knee smashed when hit by a stretch limo in the late 1980s. He missed a year but returned to first grade.

The left knee of Wallaby great Horan looked like it had been hit by a limo when it gave way during the 1994 Super 10 final in Durban.

His ACL was ruptured and so was his medial ligament. His lateral and medial cartilages were both torn and crushed. His patella was dislocated and a piece of bone bigger than a $1 coin had been chipped off.

Walking properly again was the first humble aim because rediscovering his electrifying pace and drive through tackles looked a lost cause. Myers virtually gave Horan a new knee with the screwing, stapling, drilling, cleaning and sewing of a two-and-a-half-hour operation.

Top physio Greg Craig took over for the painful rehab phase.

“Probably only people who have been through a similar ordeal will be able to understand. I guess it’s a bit like grabbing a finger, bending it back as far as it will go…then taking it back just as far again,” Horan related in the award-winning biography Perfect Union.

He would lie face down on the physio bench. He’d use the pillow to muffle his screams.

Horan made it back against the odds for the 1995 World Cup and was the Player of the Tournament at the 1999 World Cup when the Wallabies last held aloft the Webb Ellis Cup.

Remember all those classic photos of Eales holding aloft that trophy? He could not lift a footy boot above his head to start 1999 until Myers performed a shoulder reconstruction to deal with a training injury.

Myers does have a final note of advice. More research into muscle strength, workloads and knees is needed in women’s sport because the number of ACL injuries has exploded with the rise of the women’s footy codes.

Peter Myers is a true man for all seasons and codes. More than any sports fan appreciates, he has enabled all of us to watch and admire more of our favourite players for longer.

JIM TUCKER has specialised in sport, the wider impacts and features for most of his 40 years writing in the media. He is the Queensland Reds Communications & Media Manager.

 

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