Rafael Nadal health: Tennis stars foot injury a sign of rare and incurable condition

Rafael Nadal health: Tennis stars foot injury a sign of rare and incurable condition

Rafael Nadal announces end to 2021 season through injury

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It wasn’t long ago when tennis fans were left shocked as Nadal hinted towards his retirement. Late last year, the 20-time major winner had not played a competitive tennis match since August due to a chronic left foot problem. The seemingly painful injury was affecting his ability to play so much that he lost in a round of 16 at the Washington Open to Lloyd Harris. Missing both Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympic Games, his involvement in the Australian Open seems somewhat miraculous.

Speaking recently about his five-month long recovery period Nadal said: “I have had very challenging months, tough moments and a lot of doubts.

“You never know when you come back from injuries – things are difficult and you go day by day.

“But I’m staying positive. I won three matches and a title here last week.”

Albeit words of caution, sixth seed Nadal seems more optimistic than when he spoke a few months prior.

Discussing when he might play again back in October 2021 the athlete said: “I want to recover from this injury in good condition.

“I don’t know when I will play again, I work a lot every day, I follow a specific plan with a marked roadmap and with very clear objectives.

“I will not say what those objectives are, because there are always things that I can’t control 100 percent.

“But inside my head I’m clear on what my objectives are and I trust that things will follow a positive course.”

Despite complaining about the pain in his left foot only last year, on Twitter, the star revealed that he had in fact been needing medical attention in the area for a whopping 16 years.

“During this last year I have not had the ability to train and prepare and compete in the way that I really like to,” Nadal said in a tweet.

“It is not a new injury, it is an injury that I have had since 2005. It has prevented me from developing my sports career during all these years.”

To the surprise of many fans, the star actually suffers with a rare foot condition known as Muller-Weiss Syndrome, which is considered untreatable.

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The Indian Journal of Musculoskeletal Radiology explains that Muller-Weiss Syndrome is extremely rare and often an under-diagnosed cause of chronic foot pain. In some cases it can also cause foot deformity.

Crucially, early recognition and management of the condition can control symptoms and delay progression of the disease and secondary osteoarthritis.

The condition affects a bone in the foot known as the navicular bone, which some doctors refer to as “the keystone of the arch”. This means that the half-moon shaped bone is critical in your arch and allows your foot to move in interesting directions and ways. For tennis players, the navicular bone allows them to slide, pivot and bend.

Muller-Weiss Syndrome occurs when the outside of this bone starts to wear away or disintegrate, as a result of trauma, excessive force over time or developmental abnormality.


Podiatrist Zach Thomas explained that the condition can be extremely hard to diagnose, as symptoms are typically very vague. He said that individuals usually have pain in the ankle or in the back part of the foot, but an MRI scan or X-ray is needed to be able to diagnose the condition properly.

However, as the condition is progressive, it is never a guarantee that individuals will recover completely.

Back in September 2021, Nadal updated his Instagram with a picture of him on crutches, explaining in the caption underneath that he had received treatment on his foot.

The caption read: “I haven’t communicated with you through social media for a while. I was in Barcelona with my team and medical team to receive a treatment on my foot that will keep me a few days of rest and a few weeks off court. I’m back home now and in the process of recovery. Thanks to everyone for the support.”

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