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Anthony Koutoufides reveals his path to recovery following shoulder surgery

  • 6 min read

Former Australian rules footballer Anthony Koutoufides played over 270 games for Carlton Football Club and remains a legend of the game. He was often referred to as the ‘Prototype of the Modern Footballer’ as he was notably athletic and versatile, allowing him to play almost every position throughout his career. By retirement in 2007, following 16 years of playing, Anthony had amassed an AFL Premiership win, McClelland Trophy (1995), two best and fairest John Nicholls Medals (2001, 2005) and made it into the All-Australia team twice (1995, 2000). He was the leading club goalkicker in 1997, was selected in the Victorian State of Honors in 1999 and was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. 

His retirement decision was made as a result of a degenerative shoulder and a hip injury that he suffered in 2007, which was discovered to be more severe than first expected. His passion for health and fitness has featured prominently in managing his injuries since then, however, surgery became an essential step. We spoke with Anthony about his path to recovery from surgery and what has proven to be the surprise element.

AFL is a highly physical game, how did it affect your body over the years?

In my teens & twenties, like most young athletes, I had a sense of invincibility playing sport and AFL. I pushed through injuries without a problem, thinking everything was going to be okay. The sophistication of sports science wasn’t what it is today, prioritising rest & recovery.

Now, the effects of all that are coming through - mainly my shoulder needing replacing, and the other main issue is my hip, which will also eventually need to be replaced.

So, the body seems to be falling apart and I'm just trying to look after it as best as I can, doing daily stretching and everything I can to keep that movement in the body going.


You’ve recently had shoulder surgery. What led to that decision?

Doing the shoulder replacement was a big decision for me and definitely not an easy one. Having exhausted non-invasive surgical options such as stretching, strength training and acupuncture, my lack of mobility & pain were obvious reasons why I needed the surgery. 

I got to a point where I literally couldn't move my arm at all… I would use my left hand to grab my right forearm to move my arm. I couldn't grab things off shelves and mentally, it was affecting my quality of life. My shoulder was gone.

I probably could have had my shoulder replaced three or four years ago but tried to hold off because of my age, the invasiveness and the doctor often said that in ten years’ time, I might have to get it done again. But I had to do it and went for a different surgery that hopefully is longer lasting.


Before the surgery, was it difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep?

Yes, I was unable to sleep on my right side, my bad shoulder, it was very difficult. At times I would wake up in pain and it felt like my shoulder joint was like glue – it was immobile & stuck together. At times I used to also get numbness in my right arm. There was definite discomfort. If I turned or made a sharp movement, there was pain and I often had disrupted sleep


What was important for you post-surgery to support your recovery? 

My aim is to work towards being pain free and get that quality of life I mentioned before.

I want to be able to rest comfortably again, not think about how to reach for something or lie on my shoulder when I sleep… I want to get my range of movement back in my shoulder.

I still feel some minimal pain post surgery and am surprised it doesn’t hurt more but with a positive mindset, I will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to do these simple things we take for granted.

To get there, my rehab exercises are very important to me and I am constantly doing the required repetitious movements & strength work that have been outlined and prescribed for me. This is complemented with good nutrition and my intake ofHerbalife supplements. I will forever take these supplements for joint support, extra calcium, vitamin D and then of course fish oil tablets.

DrRest has been a part of your rehab and recovery - what gave you the confidence to try the mattress?

What appealed to me about DrRest was the choice of technology within the mattress's materials. For example, I found the Technogel in the shoulder zone fascinating in that it helped absorb the pressure of my shoulder while still providing support around it.

Also, with my sore hip, it was interesting how supportive the DrRest mattress was in that region.

Then experiencing my spine being straight as I lay on my side, was a genuinely relaxing feeling.

Being designed by Australian health experts who have done the research gave it further integrity and appeal for me.



How different have you found the Technogel adjustable pillow from your previous pillow? What did you notice about your sleep with the new Technogel adjustable pillow? 

I don’t say this lightly or as a throw-away comment, but I would never get another pillow… I am totally in love with it. It’s definitely more comfortable and I don’t wake up with a stiff neck. In fact, my body feels refreshed.

From the first night, I felt a difference with the Technogel pillow because I always slept with a higher pillow thinking it wouldn't put as much pressure on my shoulder.

I was initially concerned with how low the Technogel pillow was but then realised the inserts in the pillow allowed me to tailor the height of it and complement the level of my torso on the shoulder zone of the DrRest mattress – it’s magnificent. I am definitely sleeping more consistently without interruptions and waking up with less stiffness.


With the full DrRest sleep system of mattress and pillow, what have you noticed about your sleep now?

No doubt, the comfort of my shoulder is significantly better, allowing me a better night's sleep.

Initially, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to sleep on my operated shoulder, but out of habit ended on my back or other shoulder as the night progressed.

Now, it's like I don't even have to worry which side I’m sleeping on…it’s no longer a problem.

I don’t even think about how I’m going to sleep now… whether it's on the right or left side, because I feel that confidence, that support of the DrRest sleep system. I'm sleeping comfortably and I'm in love with it. It's genuinely comfortable and has changed everything for me… really.



How is your shoulder rehab and recovery progressing now?

I’m very happy with the way it's going. I appreciate it's going to take a long time to get the full range movement that I really want from it, but I can't complain.

I’m aware of some of the horror stories about shoulder replacements and the pain and discomfort that some people have experienced, but it's been really good for me and I can confidently attribute the DrRest mattress & Technogel pillow as key components to my shoulder rehab and recovery in a big way.


What advice do you have for anyone with an injury to help them get better sleep each night? 

In my opinion, sleep is actually recovery time, so your mattress and pillow are really important for rehab and recovery from any injury. I never saw my mattress as being important for many years. But now I realise how important it is to get a comfortable night’s sleep and for your body to recover.

A consistent good night’s sleep is particularly important for your long term health too. Investing in your sleep health is definitely worth doing.

I can confidently recommend DrRest for helping anyone else through the rehab process and genuinely think you guys have done a terrific job.

Extensively researched by a team of Australian health professionals, the DrRest sleep system has a patented design and configuration that facilitates musculoskeletal support and enhances rest and relaxation for individuals of all body types.

The integration of a TechnogelⓇ shoulder zone is unmatched in supporting spinal balance & alignment and is the cornerstone of quality sleep and recovery with the DrRest sleep system. learn more.