PRINCETON, N.J. -- With the news this weekend that U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra had sports hernia surgery on May 5, the questions in the U.S.’s pre-World Cup camp have shifted from the forward position (Who will play up top?) to the U.S. back line.
Though all 30 players in the U.S. camp participated in full training on Sunday, health questions still surround three potential defensive starters. Central defender Oguchi Onyewu hasn’t played in a competitive game since last October, when he ruptured his left patella tendon. Fellow center back Jay DeMerit sat out training earlier this week due to an abdominal strain, and his right eye has around 80 percent of the vision it had before he suffered a bacterial infection last fall.
Then there’s Bocanegra, who could start in the center or at left back. On Saturday, U.S. coach Bob Bradley dropped the nugget that Bocanegra had undergone sports hernia surgery earlier this month. The procedure took place in Munich with Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck, the renowned sports hernia surgeon who pioneered a technique that cuts recovery time to as little as two weeks.
Two weeks is exactly how long it took for Bocanegra to start full training with the U.S. team on Wednesday. According to Bocanegra, he was kicked on the left knee in a game on March 28 against Le Mans.
“It was above my knee, kind of in my left quad,” said Bocanergra. “I couldn’t flex my leg properly for three days. I was walking really awkwardly and tried to run on it like that.” The hernia, Bocanegra said, came as a result of overcompensation. He felt pain for “about four weeks” and had the sports hernia procedure in Munich on May 5.
Bocanegra said the sugery lasted 15 to 20 minutes. “For me it was not a big issue," he added. "The procedure was quick. I was in and out. You’re walking right away and I was running three days later.”
He said he expects to be available for the U.S.’s friendly on Tuesday in East Hartford, Conn., against the Czech Republic.
Several MLS players have had the same sports hernia procedure with Dr. Muschaweck, including New England Revolution forward Taylor Twellman. When I asked Twellman about it on Twitter today, he DM’d me back, writing:
“If Carlos takes care of the injury now--i.e., scar-tissue massage--he'll be fine.”
Recovery, Twellman wrote, takes “anywhere from 2-3 weeks. It’s later on that he’ll have side effects that suck. She cuts a nerve, which ends up not good later.” Twellman added that a few other MLS players who’ve had the Muschaweck procedure had dealt with similar “problems” in the longer term.
How will these health concerns affect Bradley’s final decisions for his 23-man World Cup roster? I’d speculate that it might increase the chances that Bradley will take eight defenders instead of seven, though it appears likely that Bocanegra, Onyewu and DeMerit will be on the plane to Johannesburg. Still, in a camp where injury information is kept close to the vest, the best way to really tell is by watching who plays in the games themselves.