AN emerging footballer who suffered a "big scare" when he sustained a serious neck injury in the off-season is taking a cautious approach to his recovery.
Cobden's Matty Kemp - one of the Hampden league club's senior players - said an off-field accident on December 10 where he landed on his head left him with a fractured C1 vertebrae.
Kemp, 22, said it was a relief he could walk and avoided surgery after a bilateral anterior and posterior fracture.
"I am very lucky it wasn't any worse," he told The Standard.
"I went a bit numb for a bit; I couldn't really feel anything and then I went a bit tingly through my whole body.
"I started to get a bit of feeling back and I managed to get up and walk home that night and it wasn't until the next morning mum (Angela) decided to take me to hospital."
It was at Warrnambool Base Hospital where the seriousness of the injury dawned on him.
"I was straight into emergency and they were pretty cautious with it," Kemp said.
"I got some scans and a couple of hours later got flown to Melbourne in a plane.
"They were taking every precaution in case I needed surgery but luckily enough I didn't need any surgery so that was good news."
Kemp spent two nights at Royal Melbourne Hospital before returning to his Cobden home to start his rehabilitation period.
"It is the one the head sits on so it's pretty much the most important vertebrae," he said. "There was no spinal cord damage which meant I could walk. I got out of it pretty good in the end."
Kemp was put in a hard collar for six weeks and progressed to a soft collar - something he is likely to wear for at least a month - last week.
He will require a scan to determine when he can lose the brace.
"Hopefully I can take that off and get into daily living," Kemp, who works in fitness, said.
"I won't be doing too much in terms of activity but being able to work and drive again will be good."
Each day Kemp is noticing progress.
But he is wary of jumping too many steps forward at once.
"It was pretty painful at the time, especially the first week or two," Kemp said.
"You think you're doing all right at some stages and then you get ahead of yourself and you turn one way and forget to turn with your whole body and you start to feel it and at times getting out of bed you're trying to lift yourself up and forget to roll out.
"The pain is slowly starting to decrease and it is getting better everyday."
Kemp is unsure if and when he will be cleared to return to the football field and cricket pitch - he's an all-rounder in the South West competition and was in solid form before his injury - for his beloved country town.
"I haven't had too much conversation about that," he said of his football comeback.
"They (doctors) are taking it one step at a time.
"I am assuming I will get back at some stage. I am not sure if it will be this year but I think I will be fine again.
"Everyone I've spoken to hasn't ruled it out."
The multi-talented sportsman, who works at the Regional Institute of Sport as a performance coach, said he was upset about being sidelined again.
"It's been a long four years or so," he said.
"I had a few injuries that kept me out of sport for three years and I finally got back and was playing and to have something happen again when you're going all right is another setback and a kick in the guts.
"I have to roll with it now and hopefully I can get back out there and play."
In the meantime he is immersing himself in the Bombers' pre-season training in other ways, understanding the need to keep his social outlets open.
"I am two blocks from the footy club and it's basically like a second family," he said.
"You're there all the time, during winter especially you're there three or four times a week.
"To stay involved, whether that be helping with a few sessions in terms of the programming, or getting around and filling up the water bottles, it is good because previous times you feel a bit isolated when you have an injury and can't be a part of it."
Cobden starts its season under co-coaches Dan Casey and Brody Mahoney on Saturday, April 2.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.