Interview with Rafa’s doctors
Interview with Eduardo Anitua and Mikel Sánchez, doctors of Rafael Nadal
“Nadal recovered well, this is not a relapse”
Eduardo Anitua created in Vitoria the method to recover from injuries through plasma rich in growth factors. And Dr. Mikel Sanchez is who applies it with Rafa Nadal.
How can this technique speed up the recovery of an athlete?
Sanchez: It depends on the patient and the tissue, which in elite athletes usually is of poorer quality due to wear and tear. At a muscular level, it can be accelerated by 30% of the forseen time. This treatment prevents relapses.
What does it consist of?
Sanchez: With the plasma, cells are stimulated to manufacture tissue. An athlete, who spends more tissue than normal, probably has degenerative lesions in some areas. (The method PRGF-Endoret is based on extracting blood, centrifugating it to concentrate the proteins after separating the part that “does not help to regenerate the tissue” and infiltrating it into the damaged tendon or muscle).
At first there was reluctance
Anitua: With the support of the Anti-doping Spanish Agency and the COE we got all the arguments presented to the IOC in Lausanne, in a hard meeting, where we showed the biological principles and their results. Unanimously it was decided to send a letter to the World Anti-Doping Agency saying that it had nothing to do with doping. They took the baton and within 24 hours it was removed from the list of prohibited substances. In London 2012, most countries have applied it routinely.
And how did Rafael Nadal come your way?
Sanchez: Well, in 2010 with a tendinopathy with bad evolution in his quadriceps, with low athletic performance and after trying numerous treatments. We applied this technique and he had a very quick recovery.
Now that he’s facing his longest period off tour, you are also treating him.
Sanchez: Yes. That injury healed and now it is a new one. It has nothing to do with the previous one. (He has a partially torn patella tendon and inflammation of Hoffa’s fat in the left knee).
Anitua: It is not a relapse, but something entirely different. The root cause, in Rafa, as in other athletes, is the massive overload it’s subjected to.
Agassi once left a well-remembered phrase: ‘He’s writing checks his body can’t cash’, because of his very aggressive way of play. Do you agree?
Sanchez: These checks have been well invested, he has won many titles. Elite sport is never healthy.
You were having dinner with him and the King (of Spain) in Mallorca. Nadal goes crazy when he doesn’t play. How did you find him?
Sanchez: OK, because he is a very sensible person and is making every effort to get back on track.
Anitua: Rafa visited us before the Olympic Games because he wanted to recover to play there. He was very excited to be the flag bearer. But the injury he had then was something that had been dragging not to stop competing. Now he is in an excellent mood and with a great desire to heal.
And how will he be when he is back?
Sanchez: We’re just doctors. We have no crystal ball. But this is just a setback, nothing more. He will return to compete again without problems because the knee joint is perfect.