Football with a stoma – Nav’s top tips

02 March, 2020

I love football. I have always loved playing it, watching it, reading about it, and the social part of it. I played in school, for my local team competitively for many years, and I still have a kick about when I can. I have met some of my best friends from playing football together, and I have played football and still do with my twin sister. That can be confusing for the opposition…

One of the first questions I had when I found out I was getting a stoma was ‘Will I have to give up playing football?’ I wasn’t ready to give up playing a sport I love. The girls in my team told me I’d be back, but I wasn’t so sure how I would play football with a stoma. My stoma nurse reassured me I would be able to when I was ready, and she was right of course.

Here are some tips for getting back on the pitch with a stoma:

Ease back into it
When you’ve started to get more active after having surgery you will know when the time is right to try competitive sports. Don’t rush in with a slide tackle! Ease yourself back in. Kick a ball about in the back garden or the park. How does the motion of kicking a ball about feel? Try a few passes with someone, short passes, longer passes, or against a wall. As with any injury or illness don’t go straight into a match situation.

Support and protection
Always support and protect your stoma. When I started back with exercise I wore a support around my middle area from my first day back in the gym. I still wear a support most of the time when exercising and it is almost a year since I had my stoma. This support can be a support belt, support vest, support pants. A belt can be restrictive to wear so wear whatever is most comfortable for you. You can also get a protective cup to go over your stoma to protect it from knocks from players and the ball.

Fresh / empty bag
Sounds obvious, I always empty before I step on the pitch. Then for the next couple hours I feel comfortable that I shouldn’t be carrying any extra weight or feel uncomfortable.

Training
Start off with simple training drills like passing and dribbling. Get to know the ball again. Then when you feel like you are ready longer passes and crosses. With shooting I started off with placing shots and didn’t blast shots. The force of passes and shots definitely made a difference to how comfortable I felt. Sit out for parts of training if you aren’t ready for certain drills.

Do not overdo it
When you think you are ready for training tell your teammates about your stoma as you’ll need to take it easy on the physical contact side to start. I started off making sure I was doing activities that did not involve tackling; on me or me on other people. It can be frustrating easing back in but it will be worth it in the long run. Using those muscles again after a long time out and being physical can cause injury if you do not take care. You will know when your body is ready to move onto more competitive and physical drills and then eventually into a match situation.

Hydrate
As with all sports stayed hydrated. I have found since having a stoma I am drinking more water and electrolyte drinks.

When you decide you are ready for football be kind to yourself. Listen to your body, work out what feels comfortable and what doesn’t. You may have to adapt certain things whilst getting back to full fitness. Don’t be frustrated that you feel you aren’t as fast or strong. You’ll get there with patience, and a good attitude whilst working to get back on the field.

I did not think I would be playing football with a stoma but I could see people on social media (including Colostomy UK) were playing rugby, boxing, MMA and running marathons. I was in awe and thought to myself how amazing those people were. So I finally got some confidence to restart playing football. It’s a huge part of my identity and I love the positivity of my footie girls, I have known some of them for years, it’s like a family. They have been great with taking it easy on me whilst I eased back into the beautiful game.

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