One of Shawn Redhage’s sporting highlights was representing Australia at the Beijing Olympics but after suffering a career-threatening injury it took a specialist surgeon in the US to keep the slam-dunking captain of the Perth Wildcat’s on the basketball court.
“Walking into the arena for the opening ceremony in Beijing and playing against the top players in the world was a great moment. But definitely the worst moment was a bad hip injury early last year. I knew something was wrong when I tried to stand up and couldn’t control my left leg.”
“The X-rays revealed a dislocated hip but emergency surgery took it a step further. I actually had an acetabular fracture which is an extremely rare sports injury and much more likely to happen in a car accident. They put three pins in my hip and told me my career was over.”
The Wildcats team doctor, Kallaroo GP Dr Russell Bock, researched the injury and found that only two players had suffered this kind of damage and neither of them had returned to the court. Fortunately, medicine runs in the Redhage family and those connections made all the difference.
“My sister-in-law is a surgeon back in the States and she knew one of the best hip specialists, so we sent all the scans to him. I flew to Nashville for surgery, had a couple of weeks in hospital and 12 weeks on crutches. I ended up playing my first game seven months after the operation. It was such a rare injury and I was fortunate this happened to be his specialty.”
“I’ve also got a sister who’s an intern back in the US. She went to Vanderbilt University and is doing a residency there. They work incredibly long hours and it’s given me a new appreciation for doctors. My hip injury proves this, if something serious happens it’s reassuring to know that the training is so thorough.”
Shawn played college basketball in the US for the University of Arizona on a sports scholarship. It’s a highly competitive arena with gridiron football sitting at the top of a very lucrative pyramid.
“The college system is pretty intense in all sports, whether it’s basketball, tennis, golf or football. It’s a wonderful proving ground for a sportsperson who wants to play professionally. And it’s big business with the universities recruiting all over the world. At UA basketball is playing in front of 14,000 people and games are televised nationally. Gridiron football is huge and funds all the other sports.”
And it’s more than just sport for the elite young athletes in the US college system. They also do a degree course and, in Shawn’s case, that’s helped him plan for life beyond basketball.
“I majored in construction management at university and that’s helped me transition into a career in financial planning. Morning and early afternoon I play basketball and then it’s off to the office in Subiaco. I’m 31 and I know that a sporting career can end at any moment. I’d like to play another five years at this level and help to keep the team winning, but I’ve also got a young family. I’ve got a time-frame in mind and that’s why I’m planning for a second career.”
Shawn says the Wildcats have been working hard to improve the financial position of the club in an environment where some of the teams in the NBL have collapsed.
“We’re trying to build up some momentum and it’s been improving over the past couple of years. The Sunday games will be live on Channel 10 and the new Perth Arena will be open soon. We also visit regional areas and do a lot of work in schools – we visited nearly 300 last year.”
“It’s always been a life-long dream to play professional basketball. It was taken away for a while, so I appreciate it even more now.”