With the Gdynia Open in Poland coming up at the weekend – the second European Players Tour Championship event of the season – Mark Selby has told World Snooker of his concerns regarding an injury that caused him to pull out of the China Open earlier in the year.
After feeling intense spasms in his neck and back, world no.1 Selby decided to skip the Beijing event in the hope of recovering in time for the upcoming World Championship only a few weeks later.
Despite extensive therapy, the Leicester man was unable to prepare properly and duly went down miserably to Barry Hawkins in a one-sided first round encounter.
This led many, and now evidently a list of people that also included Selby himself, to worry about the long-term future of the 29 year-old in the sport.
However, the two-time Masters champion has recovered well at the outset of this campaign and even added another trophy to his cabinet when he raised the first European event of the season aloft at the Paul Hunter Classic in Fuerth.
Despite this, Selby is now all too aware of the dangers of not taking proper care of yourself and the importance of maintaining peak fitness to prolong optimum performance on the baize.
“Naturally I feared the worst, because I didn’t know how serious it would turn out to be and how it would affect my ability to play snooker. It wasn’t nice being at home and watching other players trying to win the world title. My concern was that even if it got better when I was resting, would the problem come back the next time I tried to play snooker?
“I had a lot of physiotherapy and did a set of exercises for around six weeks. The pain gradually went away and now I am fine. I still get the odd twinge, but not while I’m playing snooker. There’s no shot on the table that I don’t feel comfortable playing.
“In a way it could prove a blessing in disguise because it has opened my eyes to the fact you have to treat your body properly and be aware of potential injuries.”
Thinking out loud, there hasn’t really been all that many top players in snooker who have had to retire early through injury.
Quite a few have had back concerns later on in their careers that have led to a quick demise but the only major name that springs to mind who was forced to quit in his prime was Scot Chris Small – because of a severe spinal condition.
It is a wonder that it doesn’t happen more often because the continuous stress of having to bend down and back up again, while seeming easy and in complete contrast to the physical exertions of more high-octane sports like football, rugby or tennis, can be of significantly high strain on the back and neck.
Snooker players who make it to the professional standard begin their quest at a relatively young age – most under the age of 10 – so their bodies may have simply grown accustomed to the repetitive pendulum.
Either way, Selby’s concerns may lead to others taking more careful attention to their health, especially as there are so many tournaments now on the annual calendar.
Speaking of, the last 32 of the Gdynia Open gets under way on Friday with the likes of John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Neil Robertson and Jimmy White also in attendance.