Warrington's Paul Wood: 'Testicle rupture has raised my profile'

By Sam SheringhamBBC Sport
Warrington's Paul Wood
Paul Wood has made 212 appearances for Warrington since making his debut in 2003.

There are lots of different ways for a sportsperson to raise their profile: a reality TV show, a piece with a glossy magazine, a spot of charity work perhaps.

Rugby league veteran Paul Wood took a rather more painful route to public recognition.

Wood is the Warrington Wolves prop forward who, as you may remember (and apologies in advance if you don't), ruptured a testicle after catching a knee in the groin during the Super League Grand Final defeat to Leeds in October.

The 31-year-old somehow played on for 20 minutes and made no mention of the injury in post-match interviews, but was subsequently taken to hospital for surgery to have the testicle removed.

On leaving hospital Wood endeared himself to the public by immediately making light of his misfortune: "Just coming out of hospital to go home … Seriously feel like I've left something?" he told his Twitter followers.external-link

The tweet soon went viral and, for the first time in a 13-year career at the highest level of domestic rugby league, Wood was a man in demand.

"The reaction was absolutely unbelievable - everyone wanted to talk to me," Wood tells BBC Sport as he reflects on the most hectic period of his life.

"The weirdest thing was seeing my story come up as a question on The Million Pound Drop with Davina McCall. They were given four possible answers for what had happened to me and I think they got it right."

Wood's tale of sporting bravery even made waves beyond rugby league's traditional hotbeds of northern England, Australia and New Zealand.

"I did a few radio shows in America and someone told me they used a clip on the Jay Leno show. You know what Americans are like - they love their sporting drama.

"A mate of mine has been keeping all the newspaper clippings and apparently the story was even in a paper in Poland. Rugby league has gone worldwide."

While achieving overnight celebrity status might have gone to some players' heads, Wood's ego has been kept in check by merciless mocking from his team-mates. As he lay in the hospital bed on the night after the final, he received a text from one of them praising him for "working his b***s off" during the match.

A married father of two, Wood was relieved to be informed by doctors that a man can still function with one testicle. Although he and his wife Shelley have not decided whether they want to add to their flock, Wood is determined to take measures to avoid a repeat of his Old Trafford agony.

"I'm going to wear a box," he says. "But I need to make a decision on which one I am going to wear. It's not going to be a cricket box because I don't think I'd be able to play properly with one of them.

"I need something a bit more moulded. We've been looking at an adaptation of the kind of groin guard they use in boxing or mixed martial arts. I think a few other guys might be wearing protection as well."

Wood is back training with Warrington as they gear up for next season's Challenge Cup defence and their annual bid for a first domestic league title since 1955. However, after the latest mishap in an injury-plagued career, he admits that this campaign could be his last.

"I'm contracted for 12 months at Warrington but this has probably got me thinking about how much longer I want to play and what I'm going to do after this," he says.

"I've had four shoulder operations, a back operation, a hernia operation, a broken leg and then I do this to my testicle. I just don't know if I can take any more.

"I just need to play my first game - once I've done that and provided I can get my confidence back then I can just concentrate on my rugby again."

Wood has already started preparing for life after rugby. He is studying at Bolton University for a Masters degree in strength and conditioning and offers his services as a personal trainer.

But he knows that the key to maintaining a healthy bank balance may require cashing in on his infamous injury.

"The Sydney Morning Herald dubbed me 'the world's toughest athlete' so I'm going to try to market my personal training business as offering a chance to train with the world's toughest athlete," he says.

"I'll definitely see if I can develop something off the back of this. My missus says it's the best thing that's ever happened to me."

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