With the World Cup just days away, Portugal have confirmed that star forward Cristiano Ronaldo is suffering from "left-leg patellar tendinosis". This comes on top of an already-existing muscular problem, which kept him out of Portugal's 0-0 draw with Greece last weekend.
What is "tendinosis"?
According to tendinosis.org, it's a "chronic injury of failed healing". Basically, it's when a lot of tiny tears to the connective tissue around the tendon start to have a cumulative effect on the strength of the tendon. Think pain, think stiffness, think mild swelling around the left knee. It's not to be confused with the more common tendonitis, which involves inflammation of the tendon itself.
What causes it?
Microtears are small-scale injuries that, while not hugely serious in themselves, haven't been given the time to mend that they need. So if, for example, you happened to be a top-class footballer that plays around 60 games a season, often three a week, and most of your opponents spend most of their time kicking you or trying to kick you ... that would probably do it.
Hang on, I heard that the injury was caused by a witch doctor.
That is true. Well, it's true that a Ghanaian witch doctor calling himself Nana Kwaku Bonsam, or Devil of Wednesday, has claimed as much:
I said it four months ago that I will work on Cristiano Ronaldo seriously and rule him out of the World Cup or at least prevent him from playing against Ghana. This injury can never be cured by any medic, they can never see what is causing the injury because it is spiritual.'
Is ... is he going to be okay?
Short answer, we don't know. Portuguese officials have said that he'll be fine, but then they sort of have to.
His teammate Nani — not a qualified doctor — is confident. "I don't believe the situation with Ronaldo is worrying. He's going well, and he is relaxed about it. Things are going the right way. We hope that Cristiano is in good enough shape to play and to help the team."
On the other hand, an expert for the BBC said that "Rest is the main treatment. Recovery times for tendinosis depend on the scale of the damage, but in the most severe cases could be several months."
And if he doesn't make it?
Portugal are, for want of a better word, screwed. With him, they are a scary prospect and genuine tournament dark horse; without him, they may not get out of a group with Germany, Ghana, and the USA. It's no exaggeration to say that he could be the difference between a deep run and an early exit.
Basically, Portugal are scary because they're ten competent footballers plus the best player in the world at this precise moment. Take Ronaldo out of the equation, and they're ten competent footballers plus Nani. And Nani hasn't been any good.for a while.
But he'll play, right?
Of course he will. He's Ronaldo. And he's also 29, which means that this is likely to be his last World Cup at the peak of his powers. If it comes to it, he'll hop onto the pitch if he has to.