Rare condition could end Bird’s season
BRONCOS recruit Jack Bird's season could be over after undergoing an operation to treat a rare sternum condition never before seen by Brisbane medicos in the club's 30-year history.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Bird's proposed six-week recovery from surgery is likely to be extended by another month after surgeons discovered an extra joint in his damaged sternum.
Bird has required the insertion of bone fragments and a metal plate to strengthen a sternum problem that has plagued him for nine months since his time at former club Cronulla.
Brisbane's $3.5 million marquee signing faces up to 10 weeks in the casualty ward. Bird could return in time for the finals, but by then the Broncos may choose to take no further risks to ensure the 23-year-old is fully fit for the 2019 pre-season.
The sternum diagnosis caps a nightmare season for Bird, who has also had shoulder surgery, lost his NSW Origin jumper and played just eight games for the Broncos this season.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said Bird is relieved to have some clarity on his sternum problem and has not ruled out using the utility this season depending on his recovery.
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"We've now got to the bottom of why he was having all this pain," Bennett said.
"Originally he was going to miss six weeks but the recovery is about 8-10 weeks now.
"I'm hoping to get Jack back this season, he might be able to play a few games for us, but if not, we'll get him right for next year.
"It's been a really tough year for Jack, he's been in pain all year and it's not easy for anyone in that situation.
"I think Jack is now just glad to have some answers to why he was in so much pain. There's a lot of expectations around Jack and he wants to do well, but he's in a much better place mentally than he was a few months ago.
"A good pre-season is so important for any player. None of us knew the extent of Jack's sternum injury so now we can move forward and hopefully we'll see a different player next year."
Broncos high-performance chief Jeremy Hickmans said medicos were surprised at the extent of damage in Bird's sternum.
"I've never seen it before in my time in rugby league," he said.
"Halfway down his sternum he has an extra joint which is shifting and basically what's happened, as it has grown, a bone has formed across the sternum.
"The surgeon said the joint was basically flapping in the wind when he opened him up. There has been some bone growth in the wrong direction that is also giving him pain.
"As a club, the Broncos have never had a sternum surgery in this manner. We even had to look up a specialised surgeon to do the operation.
"We were initially debating whether he required surgery but thankfully we decided on that and hopefully now Jack will get better.
"Jack already feels more comfortable."