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We asked a sport surgery expert about Luke Shaw’s injury and the road back is tough

“I wouldn’t be ruling him out of the Euros because of this injury.”

Luke Shaw is tackled by PSV Eindhoven's Héctor Moreno in a collision that resulted in a double leg fracture for the Manchester United left-back.
Luke Shaw is tackled by PSV Eindhoven's Héctor Moreno in a collision that resulted in a double leg fracture for the Manchester United left-back.
Image: Peter Dejong

IN THE AFTERMATH of Luke Shaw’s horrific double leg fracture in Manchester United’s Champions League defeat at PSV Eindhoven on Tuesday night, Dr Ciaran Cosgrave, Consultant Sports and Exercise Medicine Physician at the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry, spoke to The42.ie to clarify what the outlook is like for the 20-year-old full-back.

“When I see an injury like that I would normally be thinking six months, and then he’s got three months to get match fit for the Euros which is do-able. I wouldn’t be ruling him out of the Euros because of this injury,” he said.

Cosgrave himself has plenty of experience in the field, spending two seasons with Liverpool FC (2011-13) and providing medical cover at the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. He also accompanied Team GB to their High Altitude Training Camp in Iten, Kenya, and is currently with Leinster Rugby, having joined the backroom staff there in July 2014.

His immediate thoughts on Shaw’s injury were that it was likely the tibia and fibula that were affected, noting: “It looked like a significant injury that would cause some displacement of those bones.”

Manchester United released a statement on their official website yesterday morning announcing that London-born Shaw underwent surgery after the game and had remained in hospital in Eindhoven to continue his early recovery. Dr Cosgrave told us that the operation he likely undertook was an intramedullary nail or rod which is essentially a metal rod placed up through the middle of the shinbone through the middle of the tibia.

“They literally line up the bone and drill up the middle of the bone so that gives it structural support from the inside and acts as a scaffold to hold the bone in place and allow the tibia to heal,” he says.

The fibula will then normally heal itself over time.

In terms of treatment a professional athlete would receive Dr Cosgrave remarks that: “The principles of treatment for professional athletes and Joe Public would be exactly the same, the operation would be the same, the time of tissue healing would be the same.”

However, the expert treatment Shaw will receive will undoubtedly leave him in a good position physically once the bone itself heals. “They’ll have him doing one-on-one physio five or six days a week and he’ll eventually be working hard on the strength of his opposite leg, upper body strength and fitness – working on the bike and in the pool – so by the time the bone is healed he will be in a much better position to undertake physical activity than a non-professional athlete who would basically be resting for the most part.”

Shaw’s age is another positive and his injury would perhaps be a tad more worrying if he were in his early to mid-30s. One challenge facing footballers coming back from a leg break is the psychological impact of being out for such a long period of time. Dr Cosgrave suggests it is important for Shaw and the medical team around him to “set short-term goals and try to remain positive. Priority number one is to get him healing, then walking, and then running pain-free – setting week-by-week goals rather than talking about it in months.”

Source: FIFA (Fédération internationale de football association)/YouTube

Being psychologically ready for tackles again on his return is also vitally important.

“In training,” he says, “as part of his rehab, they will do a lot of tackle training and gradually increase the intensity and exposure to tackles.”

A couple of games in the United Reserve team will also likely feature in the latter stages of Shaw’s recovery. “Maybe for the first couple of tackles he’ll be a bit tentative, but by the time he is back in the first team he’ll be fully mentally prepared to take tackles no problem.”

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Shane Hannon

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