The condition of Rafael Nadal’s left foot continues to draw attention as the Mallorcan takes on Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round of Wimbledon on Thursday. For two eminent orthopedists, the recent winner of his 14th Roland-Garros would no longer be able to practice at a high level, if he suffers from Müller-Weiss syndrome at an advanced stage.
Reconciling high-level sports with Müller-Weiss syndrome? An impossible task? Interviewed by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, two eminent orthopedists are categorical. One is head of the conservative orthopedics and pain therapy department at Heidelberg University Hospital. The second is an orthopedic specialist specializing in sports injuries and foot surgery.
And to hear them, given his intense practice of the little yellow ball, Rafael Nadal (36) couldn’t suffer from this rare disease that affects a bone in the foot, causing significant chronic pain. Or at least not at an advanced stage, as the words of the Majorcan suggest.
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“The Müller-Weiss syndrome always manifests itself on both sides”
“I can hardly imagine that he would have structural damage to his bones if he repeatedly subjected himself to this enormous stress as a top athlete,” explains one of the two foot bone specialists, skeptical of the evil that hinders the Spanish champion after all, engaged this Thursday on the Wimbledon central court. In addition, the Müller-Weiss syndrome always manifests itself on both sides.
Since the age of 18, Nadal has suffered from osteonecrosis of the coffin bone (or tarsal scaphoid) on the back of his left foot, also known as Müller-Weiss syndrome. A degenerative disease “chronic and incurable”, he had declared on the sidelines of Roland-Garros, causing him to suffer a little more every day. “This disease and competitive sport is a contradiction, the other specialist continues. I don’t think he has bone necrosis, because it progresses and has not been compatible with top sport for years.”
Need a dose of anti-inflammatories too big for exercise?
It is also hard for the two orthopedists to imagine that Nadal is being sustained by anti-inflammatories or other therapeutic infiltrations. The dose needed for the constant pain would then be so high that he “couldn’t hit another ball” and “couldn’t complete a set”.
The Müller-Weiss syndrome has five stages: the first is without symptoms, the latter is severe osteoarthritis. The causes of this disease remain unknown. In the most severe cases and “in individuals who put a lot of pressure on their feet, the bone will disintegrate, flatten, can fragment and eventually progress to osteoarthritis with a shortening of the plantar arch,” Denis Mainard had explained to AFP. , president of the French Foot Surgery Association and head of the orthopedic surgery department at Nancy Hospital.
“I live every day with a bunch of anti-inflammatories to give me a chance to train (…) If I don’t take them, I limp. (…) My problem, for a while, is that there are many days that I live in too much pain,” Rafael Nadal said, before casting doubts on a possible end to a career limited by pain.