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15 July 2020
Footballer Thomas Hal Robson Kanu On The One Ingredient That Saved His Playing Career
Age just 17, Wales international Thomas “Hal” Robson Kanu developed a devastating knee ligament injury that threatened to end his playing career before it has even begun. Here he tells us how turmeric gave him the chance to carry on playing.
At just 17, right on the cusp of achieving his dream of making it as a professional footballer, Wales international Thomas “Hal” Robson Kanu developed a devastating knee ligament injury that threatened to end his playing career before it has even begun: “I had pain, mobility restriction, swelling - I basically couldn’t train any longer. The surgeon said to me I wouldn’t play without pain again and that I should look at career alternatives.” To add insult to a very literal injury, traditional medical solutions quickly failed: “Ultimately the medication to help combat pain was having adverse effects so I had to stop, but it meant being unable to play freely.”

Unwilling to give up on his dream just yet, Thomas and his dad set out on a mission to find a natural remedy to support his recovery and help him play without experiencing pain: “This was 15 years ago, before information was so readily available and so we tried lots of things… watermelon, ginger, subsequently settling on turmeric.” Playing with numerous concoctions, it was, by his own admission, “definitely a bit of trial and error to start with.”

Turmeric is, of course, not a new ingredient. Known to have been used for years in Asian, particularly Indian cuisine, it features heavily in Ayurvedic medicine and is credited with acting as a powerful antioxidant, also having anti-carcinogenic properties and providing relief for skin conditions. One 2016 study, for example, which looked directly at the impact of turmeric on patients with osteoarthritis concluded that that it led to “improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life" (1).

As Robson Kanu began consuming turmeric regularly, he began noticing small improvements in how restricted his movements were. Over the first few weeks, it was gradual. Then, something clicked: “Two or three months later I walked to the shower and had no pain for first time in about two and a half years. Since that point it’s been a staple.” It was a lightbulb moment in other ways too: “I really started to understand the importance of nutrition to health. It all just kind of fell together.” Robson points out that this was before the medicinal power of ingredients became mainstream, laughing: “It was back when pasta was still on the front pages of health magazines.”

Now having founded The Turmeric Co, he continues to take his shots every morning and now also sells his blends to everyone from top-tier athletes - including fellow footballers - to “grandparents looking for something to support good nutrition.” Focusing on bioavailability, the unique and powerful original formula is designed to deliver 35 grams of raw turmeric root per 60ml shot, within a blend of carefully selected fresh ingredients, rich in vitamins and nutrients. The addition of raw piperine (an extract of black pepper), which studies have shown can enhance the bioavailability of turmeric by up to 2,000%, combined with flax oil to ensure maximum absorption.

And yet, the footballer is refreshingly cautious about presenting turmeric as some kind of fix-all: “It is getting a lot more attention now, but there’s still a lot of research to be done about what it can be used for and even the way you offer it. There are so many properties to the compounds found within the raw root that the benefits still relatively unknown within their full scope."

“And at the other end of the scale you get larger organisations jumping on what they see as a trend; a turmeric shot with apple juice which is a cheap filler and reduces the concentrate. It might be marketed as turmeric shot, but it’s actually an apple shot with low turmeric percentage. If you’re going to take a shot, it needs to be fully-functional.”

When asked whether he believes the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on people’s attitude to health, he was cautiously optimistic: “Lockdown has created a bigger focus around health where in the past people wouldn’t have paid it as much attention – it’s become more of an important aspect of day to day lives. It may be that it will help create a healthier society, but with the amount of sugar and processed food that we consume there still needs to be a level of change. There’s a massive place for awareness of healthier lifestyles, which needs to happen.”

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