Medical experts raised eyebrows “Extreme” measures that Rafa Nadal says he is ready to take in order to be fit in time for Wimbledon.
Nadal won a 14th French Open title and a 22nd Grand Slam victory last weekend, overcoming the continuous pain in his left foot to defeat the Norwegian Casper Ruud.
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The Spaniard’s chronic foot injury required painkiller injections throughout the tournament, so much so that Nadal claimed his foot was numb for part of the Roland Garros final.
Nadal’s lingering foot pain is believed to be due to Mueller-Weiss syndrome, which was partially relieved by surgery in 2021 but continues to trouble the 36-year-old.
Desperate to be fit in time for Wimbledon later this month, Nadal says he is considering a treatment called radiofrequency ablation therapy – commonly used to treat back pain.
The procedure involves targeting and sometimes destroying nerve fibers, which transmit pain signals to the brain.
However, the effectiveness of such treatment has been questioned by pain specialist Dr Thomas Haag, who warned that there was little or no evidence that such treatment was effective in treating of Nadal’s condition.
He said The Telegraph he wouldn’t treat Nadal himself if asked personally.
“To my knowledge, no research has established the effectiveness of radiofrequency treatment for this condition,” Haag said.
“It’s remarkable, when you think that we are dealing with the greatest we know in tennis.
“[Those nerves] have sensory and motor functions. So destroying those nerves with thermal RF would mean he would risk losing his function and I highly doubt anyone would want to offer him that kind of treatment.
“If Nadal knocked on my door, I would say to treat these nerves safely I would only do pulsed radiofrequency treatment – which uses lower temperatures to suppress pain, and has had mixed results, but does not destroy the nerve.”
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However, all was not bleak for Nadal, with another doctor suggesting there was potential for relief.
Former Chelsea FC club doctor Dr Ralph Rogers, who is now a consultant in regenerative orthopedics and sports medicine, said radiofrequency ablation could be effective.
However, neither he nor Dr Haag said the treatment would provide anything other than temporary relief.
“I don’t think it’s risky to do radiofrequency ablation in this condition, because it’s not aggressive,” Dr. Rogers said.
“You’re just scrambling the nerve [signals], you do not destroy the nerve. It’s not rocket science, I’ve been doing it for years.
“It’s minimally invasive, non-surgical, it can last, you can repeat it. If it works, you can get six or 12 months of pain relief.”
Nadal has had a scintillating season so far after recovering from last year’s surgery.
In the Australian Open final in January, Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday, came from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev to claim a second title there.
A few months earlier, he was even considering retirement after a foot problem that had troubled him throughout his career resurfaced, forcing him to miss much of the 2021 season, including Wimbledon, the Olympics and the US Open.
He arrived in Paris with his own doctor to go through the tournament despite the injury.
With the AAP
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