The tendon injury that forced Olympic Champion Liu Xiang to withdraw from competition is difficult to heal, and competing with it could have caused a rupture with lifelong implications, said medical experts.
Liu Xiang quits men's 110m hurdles on August 18, 2008 at Beijing Olympic Games. [Sina.com ]
Fan Binghua, vice president of the Acupuncture and Tuina Hospital of Zhejiang College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, a veteran doctor who had treated several Chinese state-level athletes, said the pain of enthesiopathy, an injury that had plagued Liu for six or seven years, is "intolerable."
Fan said the pain "would cause ordinary people to scream. To continue competition is out of the question."
The pain in the tendon, which supports the movement of the body, would cause athletes to lose their balance while running. Temporary measures can relieve the pain, but the athlete's performance would still be affected, said Chen Shiyi, professor of sports medicine at Fudan University, who has treated Liu's injury.
Enthesiopathy is a tough problem in sports medicine that has troubled many athletes, said Fan. It involves the most fragile junction connecting the tendon to the bone.
Liu should receive treatment as soon as possible and make active plans for recovery, said Chen. But he also noted that the injury might recur in a few years, especially if Liu added to his exercise routine. This situation would make it more difficult for Liu to improve his speed.
Such an injury requires rest. An incomplete recovery might calcify the tendon's end, which would make the body more apt to injury.
"If the athlete keeps practicing despite the injury, it will only push his performance downhill," said Fan.
Whether Liu can fully recover depends on the state of his body, the care he gets and his training plan, but Chen believed the condition would not end Liu's sports life. There are many instances of famous athletes recovering from similar injuries, he said.
Athletes suffering from enthesiopathy should adjust their training for half or even a whole year. Other physical treatment would also take more than half a year, said Chen.
(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2008)