Hibernian captain Paul Hanlon is relieved to be back in the thick of it after a frustrating bout of concussion sidelined him for a month.
The Easter Road defender suffered a head knock in the home leg of the Europa Conference League tie against Rijeka at the start of August.
Hanlon was deemed fit enough to start the league game at home to Ross County three days later but had to be subbed at half-time due to grogginess and ended up missing Hibs’ next four fixtures.
The centre-back was delighted to banish this untimely early-season lay-off by returning to the heart of the defence and helping Hibs secure a clean sheet in last Sunday’s Edinburgh derby stalemate at Tynecastle.
He said: “It’s disappointing when you do all that work in pre-season to get up to speed and then a head knock comes along and costs you a few matches.
“There’s a lot of guidelines you need to tick off now on each step of your recovery and I also had a minor setback in the middle which put me back slightly.
“It was just about making sure I was 100 per cent before I came back. I had a mixture of symptoms.
“After getting the head knock on the Thursday, I was feeling quite ill in the Ross County game so I had to come off and it led into headaches for a few days.
“I then started the process of building back up with low-level gym work and running and then when I started heading the ball, I was getting headaches again.
“That was in the lead-up to the Dundee game (on 22 August) so the whole process basically had to start again.
“Then it led into the international break so I think that’s why it felt like such a long time. The doctor and physios are right on top of things like that now.
“They need to make sure you’re 100 per cent before you play. A few years ago you would just go on the pitch and play but there are a lot of protocols in place now where you need to tick each stage off before you can move on.
“It was frustrating because it’s not nice to miss games but I was delighted the manager put me back into such a big game last weekend.”
Although he has been in Hibs’ first team for almost 14 years, the 31-year-old Hanlon still feels in excellent condition.
He said: “I definitely still feel in my prime. The number of games I’ve played in the last few years has been good.
“I felt as fit as I could be in pre-season and going into the season but when anyone misses three or four weeks of training like I had to do, it does take a wee while to build back up but I’ve worked hard and I just need to get my match fitness up now.”
Hibs are second in the cinch Premiership and have lost only one of their 10 matches in all competitions this term ahead of Saturday’s visit from St Mirren.
Hanlon said: “We’ve started off really well, like we did last season, and given ourselves a platform to try and kick on.
“We’ve now got another big game where we feel we can get three points and keep the momentum going.”