Arsenal: Chronicling Abou Diaby's Major Injuries at the Club
Sunderland defender Dan Smith will always be remembered for the crunching challenge that led to a serious ankle injury for Diaby back in 2006. It caused the Frenchman, signed from Auxerre, to miss the 2006 Champions League final in Paris.
It would have been a homecoming for Diaby, who was born in Paris and grew up in a banlieue just outside the city.
That ankle injury also seems to have set the tone for a career that, despite showing such incredible promise, has continued to be racked by niggling injuries.
Some have become far more severe than "niggling," as well.
Yet through it all Diaby has continued to forge on.
Here's a look at his lengthy list of injuries.
Ankle Injury vs. Sunderland, May 2006
We've all heard the horror stories of Dan Smith's over-the-top challenge on Abou Diaby in injury time of a match Arsenal were winning at a comfortable 3-0 trot.
Something was immediately the matter with Diaby as he attempted to get up from the challenge. He would enlist the aid of the Arsenal medical staff to limp off the field, with his ankle turned out at a grotesque angle.
Tom Goom, a physiotherapist, attempted to diagnose the extent of that initial injury, which has obviously provided Diaby with relentless others in the six years since.
The official diagnosis of the injury, which Goom reported, was a fractured dislocation of the ankle. "It is common in these injuries for both [the] tibia and fibula to break, sometimes in several areas," Goom said.
While he noted that the club did not release the exact details of the grisly injury as per patient confidentiality rules, Goom noted that when an ankle dislocates, "there is trauma to the surrounding ligaments as well as the bone and ankle joint."
Diaby had three surgeries to help repair his ankle, and was out of football for almost a year.
Goom noted the reason for Diaby's lengthy convalescence, and a potential reason for the bevy of injuries he's suffered since.
"The nature of the trauma causes a lot of swelling and stiffness in the ankle joint," Goom said. "It is quite rare for a patient to recover 100 percent range of movement in the ankle, even with intensive treatment. The fact that Diaby was able to return to action nine months later is a great credit to Arsenal’s excellent medical team."
Goom then cited a frightening statistic. From the initial 2006 injury, to his problems as of December, 2011, Diaby had 29 injuries, most of which were muscle-based and stemmed from the ankle area.
There is a possible reason for this. As Goom says, one of the most important movements of the ankle ligament is dorsiflexion, which is required for any activity that involves absorbing impact—ie. running, jumping.
It is very difficult to restore dorsiflexion to the level seen before an injury such as Diaby sustained, Goom says.
The problem that arises, then, is that the body, in order to make up for its decreased balance, places more stress on the knees or muscles surrounding the ankle.
Hence, the myriad ligament and muscle injuries (knee, hamstring, calf) we've seen Diaby suffer since. The ankle can also become stiff from football-related actions (kicking, running), and thus become more prone to subsequent injury.
Injury While Away on International Duty with France, 2007
After suffering through nine months of rehabilitation following the Dan Smith challenge, Diaby was back in action for most of 2007.
By the end of the year, however, both he and Mathieu Flamini picked up knocks while on duty with France.
It wouldn't prove overly serious, but it marked a disturbing trend where Diaby would be forced to deal with injuries stemming from that initial Smith-induced problem.
Thigh Injury Suffered During Summer 2008
He had missed time during the 2007-08 season, but Diaby came on in force toward the end.
He even netted a goal against Liverpool during Arsenal's Champions League quarterfinal tie, but Diaby sustained a thigh injury during the match which became severe enough to force him to miss the rest of the season.
The thigh injury would only worsen during the summer months, and would eventually force Diaby to miss both Euro 2008 and the first months of the 2008-09 season. (He would return in mid-October.)
Hip Problem in March, 2009
Diaby, who frequently professed his lifelong dream of appearing in a World Cup for France, was ruled out of a qualifier against Luxembourg due to a hip problem, Soccernet reported on March 31, 2009.
He had enjoyed a prosperous start to the season, scoring a goal in the Champions League against Fenerbace, but he would once more be undone by a muscle knock.
Left Calf Injury in November, 2009
He just couldn't catch a break to play for Les Bleus.
After enjoying an excellent start to the 2009-10 season with Arsenal (minus an unfortunate mishap at Old Trafford in August), Diaby picked up a left calf injury against Wolves on Nov. 7, just one week before France was scheduled to play the first leg of a World Cup playoff against Ireland.
Knee Ligament Damage in February, 2010
Despite appearing 35 times in all competitions for Arsenal in 2009-10, Diaby was not without injury problems.
Diaby would miss almost three weeks because of it.
Ankle Injury, September 2010
Diaby missed two weeks in September 2010 after suffering an ankle injury from a tackle by Bolton's Paul Robinson (shown in picture.)
While nowhere near the most extended injury spell of his career, it proved the first major knock since his 2009-10 season, when Diaby had combined excellently with Alex Song in midfield for the Gunners, and had rode his wave of good form into the 2010 World Cup with France, where he was widely considered one of the few bright lights in what was a decidedly disreputable showing.
He would come back on Sept. 25, exactly two weeks after the match against Bolton.
Calf Strain in December, 2010
Diaby picked up a calf strain in a match against Wigan Athletic that ruled him out for three weeks.
The Frenchman lasted just 27 minutes in his first start since October before being forced to leave the field.
Ankle Surgery in 2011
After managing just 13 games for Arsenal during the 2010-11 season, Diaby once more underwent surgery on that troublesome ankle in July.
This would prove the latest attempt to rejuvenate his career. Goom, who has an extensive background with ankle injuries, guessed that the operation might have removed the metalwork that had been installed during the initial surgery following Smith's challenge.
Goom said that the metal is usually removed far sooner, and noted that it can "cause problems" for footballers.
Muscular Concerns in November, 2011
He had not yet appeared for Arsenal, and yet Diaby was once again ruled out for a longer spell with what Wenger termed "muscular problems" picked up during his attempt to make his latest recovery from injury.
It was enough for Wenger to declare himself "worried" about his midfielder's struggles to return to full fitness for any consistent amount of time.
Travels to Dubai and America for Treatment, January 2012
Diaby has seen next to action for Arsenal this season thanks to a number of muscular injuries, the extent of which caused him to travel to Qatar and America in search of potential treatment.
He spent a fortnight of rehabilitation in the sovereign Arab state before traveling to Florida for further fitness work.
Returns Against Liverpool, Stoke, Injures Himself Both Times (March, April 2012)
He had appeared to have made a successful return from his most recent spate of injuries, but there was Diaby coming on against Liverpool and proceeding to injure himself.
Diaby has reportedly told friends that he is "worried by how serious his latest injury setback is."
Diaby has said he wants to repay Wenger's faith in him, but will he ever get the chance?
A player knows his body best, and the 25-year-old's trepidation in regards to his latest setback is worrisome indeed.
Tomas Rosicky and Steven Gerrard both spoke of the emotional torpor they endured through their own lengthy rehabilitation to muscle injuries. Thoughts of quitting football entered both their minds during those long hours of drudgery in the fitness center.
Will Diaby be able to face another lengthy spell away from first-team football? He's had enough of those that would break any man, but he has continued to fight.
That is a credit to his character. Perhaps his desire to see Wenger's words—that he could become a "massive" player for the club—will get him through this most recent problem.
My prayers are with him.
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