Michael Smith: I feared a freak trampoline park back injury would cut my career short

Northern Ireland and Hearts ace Michael Smith said he feared an injury he sustained on a family trip to a trampoline park would end his career.

he 33-year-old defender has had a frustrating back injury since February but is now back in the Hearts squad and is hoping to feature in the Scottish Cup final against Rangers next weekend.

Smith, a former Ballymena United player who told Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough that he did not wish to be considered for selection, was back in action for the final 15 minutes of Wednesday night’s loss to Motherwell.

Asked if he feared his career might come to an early end, he said: “Yeah, I had doubts beyond that, I thought maybe I wouldn’t even play again.

“That was the first question I asked (the specialist) as soon as he called me, but he assured me that I would be able to play again, which made me much happier.

“It was a frustrating injury. I trained on a Friday and went to take my son to a trampoline park. I tried to stand up afterwards, but my legs were in agony.

“I wasn’t even on the trampoline! But she could barely walk. My son was like, ‘What’s up with you?’ and I said, ‘I’m almost dead here!’”

Wednesday’s loss was the third game without a win, although third place has long been assured with an eye on the Cup final.

Smith, who spent time at Bristol Rovers and Peterborough United, is simply delighted to be playing again.

The versatile full-back has had a long-term back problem and has needed to manage the injury.

“I’m glad I got a few minutes,” he told The Scotsman. “It has been tough. It was a weird injury because there was nothing I could do about it in the gym, it was just trying to recover. I finally got the green light from the specialist to start playing again, so that was good. Now I can wait for the final.

“I have had back problems for about 10 years, but it finally caught up with me and gave way.

“They did a scan and one of the discs had exploded in the nerve channel. It was just a mess there. I was close to having surgery, which would have kept me out longer.

“But it was difficult, I started the season very well and then you get injured like that. Fair game for the guys because they continued their form. I was delighted.”

Meanwhile, Robbie Neilson wants Hearts to end the Premiership season on a positive note in the first of a doubleheader against Rangers.

The Light Blues visit Tynecastle today for what is effectively a dress rehearsal for the Scottish Cup Final.

“It’s all coming together,” the former Hearts defender said. “It’s the last game of the season at Tynecastle in what has been a good season, we want to go out in style. We are ready and looking forward to it.”

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