Knee expert Dr. David Geier says Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has a “fairly good” chance at hitting his previous form after the devastating knee injury.
After suffering a serious knee injury in the latter stages of last season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been dealt a further blow by discovering he will likely not feature at all this coming season.
The extent of Chamberlain’s injury has been revealed, with damage to his posterior cruciate ligament and his anterior cruciate ligament, as well as medial ligaments spelling a lengthy stay in the rehab room.
Now, in an exclusive interview with Rousing The Kop, a top orthopaedic surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist has outlined just how hard it is going to be for Chamberlain to return to full fitness, as well as providing insight as to how the injury could potentially prevent Chamberlain from reaching the same levels of performance again.
Dr. David Geier, TEDx speaker and author of ‘That’s Gotta Hurt’, said that the complexity of the injury and the components of the joint which were damaged makes recovery a difficult process.
Dr. Geier said: “Even after an ACL, it can be a challenge for the surgeon and physical therapist to help an athlete reach a point where the surgically reconstructed knee feels like the uninjured knee so that he is completely confident landing on it, cutting and changing directions at full speed, and more.
“With three or four of the main stabilizing ligaments injured, that challenge is even greater, and there is often more stiffness and muscle weakness after the more complex surgery.”
Dr. Geier draws my attention to a medical journal article published back in 2010 in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, titled ‘Surgical Treatment of Complex Bicruciate Knee Ligament Injuries in Elite Athletes: What long-term outcome can we expect?, which draws on a 23 year study of 26 elite level athletes who suffered similar injuries to Chamberlain.
Worryingly for Liverpool fans, the article states the following: “Athletes treated by early, open, complete single-stage reconstruction within 40 days of injury had better outcomes.
“Although 19 of 24 patients returned to sports with good functional outcomes and ligamentous stability, only 8 of 24 athletes reached their preinjury sports activity level.”
A worrying conclusion indeed, but also one that should offer plenty of hope according to Dr. Geier: “It certainly suggests he has a significant challenge ahead of him in terms of reaching the top levels of football again, but it shows that reaching that level again is certainly possible.”
While he is not involved in Ox’s case in any way, so can only give a professional oversight and opinion, Dr. Geier does think that there is a chance that Chamberlain will make a return next season.
Chamberlain himself reported that surgery was a success on his knee, so Dr. Geier remains hopeful. The self-confessed Liverpool fan said: “Liverpool fans could see him back in the starting lineup for the Reds by the 2019-20 season, and maybe a little earlier.
“As a huge Liverpool fan myself, I was disappointed to hear the reported extent of his injury, because it’s always possible that he returns but doesn’t look quite like he did before the injury.
“Teddy Bridgewater of the Minnesota Vikings is a good example, although two years out from the injury, Bridgewater hasn’t had much opportunity to show what he can do after surgery yet.
“Or he might never return, like Marcus Lattimore of the University of South Carolina. He was injured in his final year of college and was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, but he never played in an NFL game and eventually retired.”
And that is the big overarching concern – what if the injury does impact on Chamberlain’s career going forward? His performances under Klopp had earned him so many plaudits and he was looking like a certainty to go to Russia with Gareth Southgate’s England squad to compete at the World Cup before he was ruled out.
After initially raising a few eyebrows when he signed for the Reds, he is now a firm fan-favourite and his absence this season is already being felt as a huge blow.
The journal article gives hope and casts shadows of uncertainty over his future. For example, while some of the athletes studied made full recoveries, some were left feeling the affects of the injury and subsequent surgery for the entirety of their careers afterwards.
The journal entry states that “13 per cent of patients showed a flexion deficit of more than 15°, and 8 per cent showed an extension deficit of more than 10°.”
Other athletes experienced stiffness and soreness in the joint, which may well be something Chamberlain has to contend with, too.
However, Dr. Geier said that, given everything he knows and had read about the case without being involved, he believes there is a very good chance Chamberlain will return to action fully fit and raring to go.
He said: “The physical therapist and athletic trainers working with him would obviously have a better idea as they see day to day and week to week whether he is meeting rehab milestones.
“Having said that, based on just what I have read about the ligaments he injured, I would think there is an excellent chance he returns to play and a fairly good chance he returns at the level he was prior to the injury.”