A potential new remedy for chronic knee pain has changed the life of new Echuca coach and former AFL footballer Andrew Walker after the star took part in initial trials for an existing drug.
Pentosan polysulfate sodium is used to treat osteoarthritis in horses and dogs, but had not been used to treat human pain until 2015 when the former Carlton star teamed up with pharmaceutical company Paradigm Biopharma.
And Walker, who was recently announced as the Murray Bombers’ new playing-coach for 2018, could not have been more pleased with the results — the injections taking his pain levels down.
‘‘It was amazing. I first trialled it at the end of 2015 when my knee was at its worst,’’ he said.
‘‘I’d exhausted all of my options and it was an absolute nightmare.
‘‘It’s a German drug so it needed TGA approval and WADA approval being a sportsman.
‘‘That was a four to five-month process to get that ticked off, but I’m really thankful I went through with it.’’
Walker struggled throughout his AFL career with osteoarthritis; he had five different surgeries on his knee, with 150ml of fluid causing the pain drained from his knee three times a week.
His career was impacted, playing just 23 games in his final two seasons at Carlton, but he found everyday tasks even more difficult.
‘‘(The osteoarthritis was really bad) probably the last three years of my AFL career,’’ Walker said.
‘‘I had a really good year in 2013, but from them on it was an absolute battle.
‘‘Things that used to be quite easy like walking from bed to the kitchen, walking to get the paper or a coffee — all those simple things you’d take for granted were a real battle.
‘‘Every step I’d take, you’d be wondering what sort of pain you were going to feel.
‘‘Weekly I was getting my knee drained three times, Tuesday, Thursday and game day.
‘‘By the end it was so normal, it was part of my preparation to get there three hours early, and it just wears on you.’’
Walker’s pain level has dropped from ‘‘10 out of 10’’ to a ‘‘two or three’’, enough to see him play 15 games this year with Northern Football League side West-Preston Lakeside.
A 10cm oedema has shrunk to just 1cm, his knee not drained in more than 12 months.
And clearly the star has still got it, named 10 times in his side’s best.
Walker said Pentosan had the potential not just to lengthen AFL careers, but to help the everyday punter.
‘‘If it becomes readily available to the general public it would definitely help clear up some pain,’’ he said.
‘‘I’m extremely active and doing all the things I love again.’’