Veteran sports doctor Brian Corrigan puts his own convalescence to good use.
Once it was confirmed his prognosis was not as grim as first feared Brian Corrigan could appreciate the serendipitous nature of events.
The doyen of Australian sporting doctors, Corrigan has made an impressive recovery from a stroke last month and with characteristic bullishness has returned to the gymnasium. At 81 his only concession is a lighter training regimen.
A charismatic soul much loved across many sports, Corrigan was fossicking about the family home at Seaforth during his rehabilitation when he came upon a precious item of Australian sporting history - X-rays he had ordered of Donald Bradman's neck and spine 45 years ago.
About the same time, he became aware that an exhibition embracing the science of cricket was planned for the impressive new International Cricket Hall of Fame attached to the Bradman Museum at Bowral in the southern highlands of NSW. The synergy was obvious.
Furthermore, it presented a priceless opportunity to ensure malcontents and opportunists could not besmirch Bradman's reputation nearly 10 years after his death at the age of 92.
Perhaps best known as Australia's Olympic doctor from 1968 to 2000, and remembered for his dramatic treatment of legendary distance runner Ron Clarke after the 10,000m event at the Mexico Olympics, Corrigan also served national soccer and cricket teams.
He has an abiding love of cricket and still closely follows the fortunes of the Australian and NSW teams. For 40 years from 1957 he was the NSW Cricket Association's doctor, with responsibility for the Australian team when it was in Sydney.
Corrigan came to wider notice in the cricket community while studying at University College Hospital in London in 1961, when he oversaw the treatment and rehabilitation of Australia captain Richie Benaud, who seriously damaged his shoulder bowling at Worcester and had to delegate the leadership to deputy Neil Harvey for the Lord's Test.
Given his frequent attendance at the Sydney Cricket Ground, it was only a matter of time before Corrigan met Bradman, who was at the peak of his powers as an administrator and selector during the 1960s.
Their relationship changed in 1965 when Bradman was again racked with the pain of fibrositis, which 24 years earlier had temporarily but seriously restricted his capabilities as a cricketer and caused him to be invalided out of the army in June 1941.
Herein is the nub of a matter that has long fascinated cricket and social historians.
While little of substance was said publicly, Bradman's detractors peddled innuendo about his discharge from the army on medical grounds.
Even now, disparaging whispers of this nature are occasionally audible.
Corrigan, who successfully treated Bradman and enjoyed sitting with him at Test matches in Sydney, said it was high time the record was set straight once and for all.
"I am very conscious of the guys who didn't like him," said Corrigan, who has many good friends in the cricket community - which has its quota of mischief-makers and gossips.
"But the fact is that Don Bradman was genuinely ill and should have had an operation. That they said nothing was wrong with him and that he was a shirker is extraordinarily wrong."
Bradman presented to Corrigan with the same symptoms that so shattered him in 1941 and led to three spells in military hospitals before his discharge from the army after being a patient to the Repatriation General Hospital at Keswick, in South Australia. He was unable to lift his arm above his head and he experienced constant and excruciating pain. The X-rays revealed a crushed disc and a bony growth around it extending into the nerve.
Corrigan said disparagers of Bradman may have noted that in 1948 the august British Orthopaedic Association stated publicly that there was no such condition as fibrositis. At the time, Jack Fingleton, a cricket and political journalist and one of Bradman's most trenchant critics, was writing his book Brightly Fades the Don which was published in 1949.
"That bald statement by the BOA was right and it was wrong," Corrigan said. It was right that in those days all muscular-skeletal pain syndromes, nerves on the discs, those sorts of things, were considered unbelievably rare as a cause of pain. Sorting out those pain syndromes didn't happen much in those days.
Bradman's "fibrositis was pressure on the nerve of his neck from his spine, with pain down his arm".
"What they didn't say is that while fibrositis might have been a fanciful diagnosis, it was absolutely true that that there was reason for his pain: the compressed nerve in his neck."
In his forensic examination of Fingleton in 2008 subtitled The Man who Stood up to Bradman, author Greg Growden referred to a note Fingleton had attached to a column by former Australian opening batsman Sid Barnes, a member of Bradman's 1948 Invincibles in England. Barnes wrote that Bradman was furious when Keith Miller kicked the ball back to him and refused to bowl during the Lord's Test match because of injury.
Fingleton said that Barnes did not tell the full story in his column.
Indeed, he claimed that in the dressing room after play a tetchy Bradman said: "I don't know what's up with you chaps. I'm 40 and I can do my full day's work in the field." And Miller replied: "So would I - if I had had fibrositis during the war."
The antipathy is well documented between the ramrod-straight, conservative Bradman and Miller, a fancy-free bon vivant with a distinguished war record as a fighter pilot.
"There is no doubt Fingleton made a big fuss about it," Corrigan said. "But I understood Bradman was in agony. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Had surgery been more sophisticated at that time I would have recommended it. But not once did I hear him express frustration that his critics misunderstood his condition and used it against him."
A most engaging conversationalist and raconteur, Corrigan remains in touch with friends and characters from various sporting fields and meets regularly at Harbord with old flannels, including former Australian fast bowler Gordon Rorke and NSW wicketkeeper Doug Ford.
Much to his amusement there is an unspoken limit to the extent to which each can exaggerate the accomplishments of their youth.
I agree this injury would be affecting a lot to Bradman's career..this kind of injuries have affected the career of so many people..
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