Tom Peck: England fans rejoice - it's the new metatarsal, and Wayne Rooney hasn't succumbed to it yet

A meniscus injury had threatened to ruin Luis Suarez's World Cup this summer

Like the snood, the technicolour boot and the patch of Vicks' Vaporub on the chest, pre-World Cup footballing injuries are no less subject to the tides of fashion. With one of England's many potential nemeses, Luis Suarez, suddenly under the knife – or more accurately the laser – it's fair to speculate. Is the meniscus the new metatarsal?

In a global sense, yes. With apologies for the confusing foot metaphor, the metatarsal was only ever a particular Achilles' heel – confusing foot metaphor notwithstanding – for the English, disabling as it did the talismanic Beckham before the 2002 World Cup, and the even more talismanic Rooney before 2006.

But, in laying down Anfield's golden child and arguably then the world's great centre-forward Fernando Torres before the 2010 World Cup and now Suarez, the meniscus has taken over.

The meniscus is a shock-absorbing cartilage in the knee which stops the thigh bone grinding against the shin bone when it impacts, twists and turns. They are crucial. A meniscus injury can be almost nothing – see John Terry, 2012, back after two weeks. They can be of moderate significance – see Torres, 2010, out for seven weeks, and the problem recurred. Or they can be agonising, and ultimately terminal – see Ledley King's entire career.

Of course, any damage at all to Suarez is good news for England fans, except for those who are also fans of Liverpool, but for the handballing, racially abusing, arm-biting but above all prolific goal-scoring Uruguayan, the prognosis appears positive, if you believe his family. "Back in two to three weeks," his mother Giovanna Suarez said.

It appears he first noticed his injury in his last game for Liverpool. He says it has "niggled" in training, so he underwent a scan and then comparatively minor surgery.

"To tear the meniscus there has to be impact. You have to rotate it, grind it," said Tim Spalding, a leading UK knee surgeon who has performed many operations on Premier League players. If Suarez did do the damage in the match against Newcastle United it may be difficult for his doctors to have identified exactly when, given the number of injury red herrings he likes to throw into the mix.

"I would think it's a small flap tear of the meniscus, where a small edge of it is catching, and so there is less confidence in pivoting and turning," said Spalding. "The expectation would be, with a small tear to the meniscus, that you remove it and forget about it, and 90 per cent of the time everything should be fine."

Much is made of Suarez's powers of recovery. Some reports suggest he has never missed a match through injury – only through tactics and, all too commonly, suspension. Overly optimistic England fans should bear in mind that against Norwich two months ago, if his contorted facial expressions were anything to go by, he went down having suffered a double unanaesthetised amputation, but when the ball broke favourably up the pitch, he was better in less than a second.

Comments