Rafa Nadal's 'extreme' move for Wimbledon divides medical opinion

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·Sports Reporter
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Rafael Nadal's method to relieve pain in his chronically injured left foot has raised the eyebrows of the medical world. (Photo by Ibrahim Ezzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal's method to relieve pain in his chronically injured left foot has raised the eyebrows of the medical world. (Photo by Ibrahim Ezzat/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Medical experts have raised an eyebrow to the 'extreme' measures Rafa Nadal says he is willing to take in order to be fit in time for Wimbledon.

Nadal won a 14th French Open title and 22nd overal grand slam victory last weekend, overcoming continuing pain in his left foot to defeat Norway's Casper Ruud.

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The Spaniard's chronic foot injury necessitated painkilling injections throughout the tournament, to the extent that Nadal claimed his foot had been numb for part of the Roland Garros final.

The ongoing pain in Nadal's foot is reportedly due to Mueller-Weiss syndrome, which was relieved partially with 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 turning to a treatment called radiofrequency ablation treatment - commonly used to treat back pain.

The procedure involves targeting and sometimes destroying nerve fibres, which carry pain signals to the brain.

However the efficacy of such a treatment was questioned by pain specialist Dr Thomas Haag, who cautioned that there was little to no evidence such treatment was effective in treating Nadal's condition.

He told The Telegraph he would not treat Nadal himself if asked personally.

“To my knowledge there is no research which established the efficacy of radiofrequency treatment for this condition,” Haag said.

“That’s remarkable, when you think that we are dealing with the greatest we know in tennis.

“[Those nerves] have got sensory as well as motor function. So destroying these nerves using thermal RF would mean that he would risk losing function and I very much doubt that anyone would want to offer this sort of treatment to him.

"If Nadal knocked at my door I would say that to treat these nerves safely I would do pulsed radiofrequency treatment only – which uses lower temperatures to suppress pain, and has had mixed results, but does not destroy the nerve.”

Rafael Nadal is desperate to be fit in time for Wimbledon, despite having just won his 22nd grand slam title. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal is desperate to be fit in time for Wimbledon, despite having just won his 22nd grand slam title. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal going to great lengths to ready for Wimbledon

It wasn't all doom and gloom for Nadal though, with another doctor suggesting that there was some potential for relief.

Former Chelsea FC club doctor Dr Ralph Rogers, who is now a consultant in regenerative orthopaedics and sports medicine, said radiofrequency ablation could be effective.

However, neither he nor Dr Haag said the treatment would provide anything more than temporary relief.

“I don’t think it’s risky doing radiofrequency ablation on this condition, because it’s not aggressive,” Dr Rogers said.

“You’re only scrambling the nerve [signals], you’re not destroying the nerve. It is not rocket science, I’ve been doing it for years.

"It is minimally invasive, non-surgical, it can last, you can repeat it. If it works you may get six or 12 months of pain relief.”

Nadal has enjoyed a scintillating season so far after bouncing back from last year's surgery.

At the final in January's Australian Open, Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday, came from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev and bag a second title there.

A couple of months earlier he was even considering retiring after a foot problem that has 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 get through the tournament despite the injury.

With AAP

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