Is there going to be anyone left to play in the World Cup? After losing top stars like Radamel Falcao and Christian Benteke fell to major injuries over the last few months, England took a blow as one of their best in-form strikers, Jay Rodriguez, ruptured his ACL during a match for Southampton, as detailed by Goal.com.
Rodriguez was injured on a standard looking play. He jumped and, as he landed, simply crumpled to the grass. Review of the video showed that Rodriguez's knee twisted as he landed, a variant on the normal mechanism of injury for such a cruciate sprain. It was clear from his reaction that the injury was severe and scans made on Monday were just as clear. It is a complete tearing of the ligament, also called a rupture.
The normal recovery time for an injury like this is between six and nine months. Depending on when Rodriguez has the surgery, it is expected to be soon, he could be back for the Saints by the end of the calendar year. Much will depend on his rehab, but his ability to cut and stop will be affected, which will definitely affect his preferred style of play.
The surgery is expected to be a standard ACL reconstruction. Doctors will take a graft from his patellar tendon and use it to replace the damaged ligament. They'll screw the tendon into place, overlaying the path of the damaged ligament and lock it in. Over the next several months, the tendon will take seat as both the anchors and the holes drilled to loop the ligament through heal.
Beyond that, the tendon will physically change into a ligament over a period of years. In many cases, the replacement will be as strong or stronger than the original, allowing a complete return to level for the injured player.
Rodriguez was widely tipped to play for England in this summer's World Cup. Roy Hodgson already had some difficult roster decisions ahead of the team's warmups this summer, but losing Rodriguez will put even more pressure on him. While Danny Welbeck is an easy replacement for Rodriguez in terms of pace and style, he's not been as good.
Injuries prior to a major competition are always a problem, but this season has seemed even more problematic. It's hardly a new mechanism or limited to any single competition, but even beyond the players already out, such as Rodriguez, Falcao and Benteke, other major stars have dealt with injuries this season and are being watched closely as the club seasons draw to a close.
Cristiano Ronaldo has missed time for Real Madrid with a mild knee strain while his rival Lionel Messi has missed significant time this season with hamstring issues. Both will be key to their own countries (Portugal and Argentina, respectively) and their fitness over the last few weeks of both La Liga and the Champions League will leave their countries holding their breath.
There have been a number of ACL injuries in the Premiership this season, including another England international in Theo Walcott. Injuries in Europe have benefited from the same sorts of surgical and rehab advances that have been made in the NFL and NBA. Players are coming back from this surgery quicker and stronger than previously, though unfortunately the speed and forces exerted on the knee have increased as well, leading to more and more devastating injuries.
Rodriguez will have every chance to return to be the striker of choice for the Saints, but he'll have to wait until 2020 in Russia to have another chance to play in the World Cup. The unfortunate timing is tough and puts more pressure on England as they prepare for play.