If you want to dispel any doubts about what was true and what wasn’t regarding Valentino Rossi’s participation at the Aragon GP two weeks ago, read this interview with Ángel Charté, medical director of the World Championship.
How is it that Rossi competed with a tibia and fibula fracture just three weeks after breaking them?
“I am 61 years old, with 35 of those years in the profession and six as the medical director of the World Championship in the specialty of Internal Medicine. All the injuries I see in MotoGP surprise me, because if they happened to me or a person on the street, we would be in the hospital a couple of months or more. It is surprising and it puzzles me that the riders can recover at this speed, it is not normal.
After hearing some circulated rumors, I must say that I have been a faithful witness to Valentino’s injury from the first day, and to the excellent operation by Dr. Pascuale in Italy. Valentino was not 100% in Aragon, that is evident. He had a hematoma at the height of the ankle as a result of the intramedullary nail that was placed using two incisions, one supra tibial and another infra tibial, where they placed the corrector and the screw, then pulling them through the distal part. At 12 hours after surgery, Valentino already performed rehabilitation exercises supporting the entire lower right limb and its progress was very good.
“The injuries I see in MotoGP would keep a normal person on the street in the hospital a couple of months or more. It is surprising and it puzzles me that the riders can recover at this speed”.
Why do you consider this operation to be excellent compared with another operation that is not?
“An excellent operation means that the surgeon Pascuale was very successful in the immediate decision to intervene surgically and secondly I must say that when I see a good job from a colleague of mine, whether Italian, Romanian or Argentinean, I must admit it. That is why I affirm that Dr. Pascuale made an excellent intervention. I insist, excellent.”
At the first press conference given by Rossi, he spoke of the progress medicine has made. The question is: Was his quick recovery due to progress in medicine or was it just an excellent intervention?
“Indeed, progress in medicine plays a part, it would hardly be possible if it did not. Rossi said the difference between the injury he had 10 years ago and this one is big. The first one took 40 days and in Aragon he raced after 24 days. I imagine that in 20 years surgery will have evolved so much that these types of injuries will be resolved in three or four days.”
“In 2010 it took 40 days for Rossi to return to activity; in Aragon he raced after 24 days. I imagine that in 20 years surgery will have evolved so much that these types of injuries will be resolved in three or four days.”
But what is the difference, perhaps less invasive surgery?
“That’s it. It is a less invasive surgery. It’s about making a longitudinal incision with these new endomedullary nails that are more practical to use with riders. For me or a normal person we would take 30 days or more, because our constitution and other factors are different. In contrast Valentino made the third best time in practice only 23 days after being operated and in that, much of success goes to the surgeon who did the operation, and part of the it goes to Rossi’s physical constitution.”
Is the bone already healing around the nail?
“The bone callus is beginning to form but is not fully stabilized. Stability comes from the nail. One of the risks of this type of injury is the breakdown, because the callus is not yet formed at one hundred percent. It will be at 50 or 60 percent. Any trauma in that area could undo the nail, that is evident. But that doesn’t stop you from being able to race”.
What would happen if you crashed at 250 kilometers per hour and hit the same leg?
“Well, we would have a problem. The type of injuries that these riders produce must be evaluated at the time they occur. I have seen traumatic brain injury in riders at 280 kilometers per hour who initially had a cranial concussion that a person in the street would have four or five days in intensive care units. But with these riders, once all the battery of necessary tests are made, they are of another mold or have different genetics and they recover faster”.
There is a lot of talk about using a hyperbaric chamber with hormones that increase bone growth. Do these things help or is the improvement psychosomatic?
“No. It is clear that there are now a number of drugs, both genetic and implantation of one’s own stem cells that help. But with these types of injuries it is not necessary to apply them. The hyperbaric chamber is a unit that we use in my hospital and according to what type of issues a patient has we use it to avoid embolic processes, such as lung polyps, and so on”.
But it’s not used to increase bone growth, correct?
No, it has not been proven. In any case, we could not use it with a rider who races after 20 days.
Lately we’ve seen many riders who are injected with pain killers to manage pain, where is the red line between legality and sports medicine?
That is a good question. You see, there’s a medical pharmacological code we call doping. That code has to be maintained. We use a number of non-doping drugs. We only used a series of corticosteroids in process very regularized and justified with the signature of the medical director before the anti-doping committee, and we reach a consensus. Valentino Rossi has not been injected thus far. He has taken anti-inflammatory drugs not typified in the anti-doping code. And I say this because I have personally followed his medication. At no time have unlicensed drugs been used. I would act against my personal judgment and against professional ethics if that had happened. I can assure you that Rossi, like any World Championship rider, I am on top of with this kind of injury. Whether it is Valentino or the last Moto3 rider, we always use the pharmacology that is in the pharmacological medical code. I would be the first to denounce the case of any rider who had committed that illegality.