Most of the reports on the present injury situation at Real Madrid appear to be little more than guesswork. Looking at the headlines in some of the media sources after the Celta Vigo game led me to believe that a quick comeback for all three of the big name players currently injured, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric, would be imminent. A closer look, however, reveals that this is just not the case. The majority of the reports are full of ‘ifs' and ‘buts'.
Starting with Luka Modric, the predictions are that he is aiming for a return in the Champions League second leg against Juventus even though Carlo Ancelotti has already ruled him out due to a knee ligament injury. This is based on reports that say that Luka has sustained an injury to his medial collateral ligament of the knee only; and that there are no other complications. This, say the reports, allows for some flexibility over the times quoted and that with a little leeway could mean that Luka might be ready for the Champions League fixtures as stated. Despite being on crutches last week he is even hoping to begin running shortly; I'm sure he is.
There's nothing better than a bit of artistic licence when it comes to interpreting statements like this. Of course this allows for some flexibility; but the flexibility applies both ways. If the injury doesn't respond to treatment then he won't be in the running at all and that's where the guesswork comes in. A straight-forward injury to one of the collateral ligaments of the knee can take anything from a three weeks up to several months depending on the severity of the injury. The collateral ligaments are the structures that control stability of the knee in a side to side direction and are usually injured by a blow which forces the lower leg beyond normal ranges; such as in a block tackle for example.
Everyone by now has seen how the actual injury to Luka Modric resulted from exactly the type of challenge which forced the knee into a sideward movement and stressed the aforementioned collateral ligaments. The concern with the knee though is usually that if there is also some twisting involved at the same there may be some cartilage damage and that's when the complications set in. It's also very rarely that structures like ligaments etc are injured purely in isolation without associated damage being sustained to adjacent tissues,
We are assured, however, that with Luka this is not the case and that the damage is confined to the ligaments of the knee only. Nevertheless, the recovery time for a ligamentous injury is proportional to the severity of the actual injury sustained. Ligamentous injuries come in varying grades from a mild disruption of a few fibres to a complete rupture; but on average most will fall somewhere in between. Of course, with the benefits of MRI scanning and such like it's a lot easier to estimate recovery times but it's still not an exact science. Therefore nobody can say for certain that Luka will be fit for this game, that game or the other, as it's just not possible to predict the speed at which injured tissues recover so far in advance.
Karim Benzema is also being mentioned as nearly fit to return; but once again if you read the articles stating this it turns out that he is merely ‘hoping to recover' and is on course for a return to the team. I'm sure he is on course for a return to the team but once again it's difficult to say with any degree of certainty exactly when that will be.
I'm always a bit cautious about trying to predict when players will be fit to play after being injured, and even more so about naming the actual games when they are likely to return. That's not just me being defensive either, though, it's just that I think you need to have a lot more information to hand than is usually available in order to do so. There was a great picture of Karim Benzema posted on his Instagram account the other day showing him working hard in the gym in Lyon on his knee injury; but although he looks to be doing well with the strengthening work there's no definitive date being given as yet for his return.
The same applies to Gareth Bale whom we learn through the media is also about to be given a clean bill of health - but they don't say when. Once again there's a lot of guesswork involved. Real Madrid's official website reports the actual injuries sustained but doesn't normally go much deeper than outlining a brief diagnosis. The papers try to predict recovery times but often get it totally wrong since the estimates are usually based on conjecture. Calf injuries can take up to six weeks (or sometimes longer) and like hamstring injuries they have a high susceptibility to recurrence.
It's often futile to try to predict one player's recovery time based on someone else who had a similar injury. Although they may be similar in nature, every injury is different and if you have three different players on adjacent treatment couches with three average ankle sprains for example, they're all going to recover at different rates no matter what the text books say. Although you may get two out of the three returning as planned, human factors apply and there's always the unexpected setback to consider; often the mysterious swelling that appears one morning just when you think everything is going well!
So despite my initial optimism about the reported imminent return of our intrepid trio, it appears that we are really no further forward. We know that they're ‘about to be given a clean bill of health' and we know they are ‘on target' with their rehab programmes and of course we also know that they're ‘doing well and hoping to return to the team'. The fact remains, however, that when the media reports that Luka Modric, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale etc are all about to be declared fit after an injury it pays to look a bit deeper at the actual wording. Artistic licence can be a wonderful thing.